iBasso DX300

voja

100+ Head-Fier
Go Big or Go Home!
Pros: Value, value, value!
The best (biggest & highest resolution) DAP display
Industry-leading CPU
Industry-leading 6GB RAM
Flagship DAC chips
Build quality
High quality accessories (cables, leather case, film screen protector, tempered glass screen protector)
Packaging & presentation
Long lasting battery life
Short charging time & support of Fast Charging
Interchangeable AMP module
Phone Out/Line out outputs
Fully balanced Line Out (2.5mm & 4.4mm)
Among the best customer services in the business
Cons: The design of the volume knob may not be visually appealing to everyone
L/R balance cannot fully (100%) pan the volume to either side
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Go Big or Go Home!


If you are unfamiliar with the name “iBasso”, here is an excerpt from my iBasso SR2 review that vaguely goes into the company’s history:

In 2006 the company stayed loyal to producing headphone amplifiers, portable amplifiers, and DACs. However, it was 2011 that would become the most important year for iBasso. DX100 would become the product that completely changed iBasso’s future. It was the company’s greatest success and was the greatest accomplishment — making it the world’s first digital audio player that could play DSD while utilizing Android OS. But this wasn’t enough for iBasso, as though the DX100 was also the first true high-resolution (24bit/192kHz) digital audio player. The DX100 was able to accomplish this by successfully bypassing the ASLA driver on Android and using two EX9018 DAC chips. This would go on to be an industry-changing achievement, but also the company’s biggest commercial success.

In the later years, iBasso would go on to release a number of digital audio players. Finally, in 2016 the company would enter the field of earphones. This can be considered the point when iBasso entered the field of Head-Fi. It would only be a year later that it would release their flagship digital audio player, the DX200 — a reference-grade DAP that would be the next big step for the company. The DX200 was released as a 10-year anniversary of the DX100.

Then the year 2018 came — the same year that the SR1 headphone came out. iBasso followed their tradition of being a step ahead of itself, they couldn’t help but utilize some innovative technology (silicone suspension drivers). They would finally follow up with two industry-leading digital audio players in 2019 and 2020 - the DX220 (2019) and DX220 Max (2020). Not only are these two product the flagships, but are also the long-awaited follow up to the previous DX220.

We’ve finally seen iBasso release the much anticipated DX300 in late 2020. Before I get into the small details, I just want to tell you that this, in my opinion, is the most successful device iBasso ever released. To say that the DX300 is an improvement over the DX220 would be an understatement. This is a whole different league.

The brand-new 300 series feels like a start to something great. A beginning of a new chapter, a new era.

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Design & Build Quality

While some have been surprised by the size of the DX300, to me it feels pretty natural. This is probably because I am used to smartphones and am looking at it as a smartphone-like device. From my understanding, this is the closest we have seen a DAP get to a smartphone… and that’s a huge step forward.

iBasso is known to keep the design of their DAPs fairly simple. Never too flashy, always minimalist and elegant. In this case, the body is made of anodized aluminum which both looks great and feels great. As a matter of fact, it matches the anodized aluminum that Apple uses (e.g. on their MacBook series). Though large, it’s quite a sleek DAP — 3mm thinner than the HiBy R8 and the Shanling M8, 1mm thinner than the Fiio M15 and the Lotoo PAW 6000, and 1.2mm thicker than the Astell & Kern SE200. Pretty neat, right?

With either of the colorways (obsidian-black, starry-blue), the color scheme is quite high-contrast. In my hands is the starry-blue version, and the blue on its own looks very unique. It can heavily change its appearance depending on the lighting. For example, it can look like a dark grey, but can also look like a midnight blue. The accent color is gold. The 4.4mm and 3.5mm outputs have gold textured rings around them that match the volume wheel. In my opinion, the contrast is a bit too out there, and perhaps it would’ve been nice to see a silver or a dark grey accent color on the obsidian black version. Color schemes are definitely a field that’s always open for experimentation.

On the top side of the device, you have the coaxial output and the USB-C port, both of which have laser-etched labels below them. The latter is used for charging (supports QC3.0 and PD2.0 quick charging), data transfer (USB 3.1) and can also be used as a USB sound card. On the bottom-side are located the SE (single-ended) 3.5mm and BAL (balanced) 4.4mm and 2.5mm outputs. While there are only three physical outputs, they double as PHONE Out (aka headphone out) and LINE Out. It should be noted that the mentioned outputs are the ones that come with the stock AMP11 card. iBasso’s DAP line-up stands out on the market for its replaceable and exchangeable amp card feature, which in my opinion is one of the most significant features that a DAP can have. Most people are okay with keeping the overall device the same, but they like to play with sound. What’s the only way to achieve that? To change the amplifier. In iBasso’s case, all you need to do is change the amp card. Since iBasso chose to change its amp card design with the DX300, we are yet to see what will be offered in the future.

The right side is where people have split opinions. What am I talking about? The knob. Oh, yes, the volume knob. While it is designed well, I am personally not the biggest fan of it. Though the whole design has a purpose – the ridged design for grip, the indented side for pressing in – the design doesn’t necessarily look attractive. I personally don’t think it fits with the elegant design of the whole DAP. I would’ve much preferred a redesign of the DX220’s robust and uniform wheel. Due to the shiny finish, I found myself leaving fingerprints on the inside of the indented part. Besides the wheel, there are also three media buttons: Play/Pause, and Next and Previous. They are slim in design and have tactile feedback. One thing I noticed is that when the DX300 is slipped into the case, all three buttons can lose the tactile feel, making it very difficult to distinguish whether you have pressed them. It is possible that my [leather] case is not tailored well and is causing this, but I had to push really hard and above the case imprints for the buttons, making it quite inconvenient. Again, in my opinion, I believe that a round design of the buttons (like on the DX220) would’ve been much more appropriate. Slim buttons come in handy for things such as the power button, but for media buttons, a larger surface that is easier to press is much more useful.

On the back, you will find what I consider the most gorgeous part of the DX300 — a curved satin-like glass panel, or as Mr. Paul describes it: “a special type of glass”. Upon taking a closer look, I noticed that beneath the glass panel there is what you call an “engraving texture”. I still don’t understand how every reviewer failed to mention this… perhaps they were too focused on the music? On the upper part of the panel there is a silver iBasso logo, while on the bottom portion of it, you have the model name (DX300) and some text. All of these are in a silver finish. However, here’s where things get interesting. The engraving texture fades to a matte black finish on the lower third of the panel. Without any exaggeration, this is by far the most stunning and gorgeous-looking surface I’ve seen on the back of any device. It is incredibly smooth, which is probably why we haven’t seen it on smartphones. This is why I strongly suggest that you do not use it without a case that will provide you the needed grip. I can say that this is my favorite design element of the DX300.


Display

The DX300 takes the crown with its 6.5” LTPS IPS. If I am not mistaken, it is the largest DAP screen and also the one with the highest resolution (2340x1080) on the market. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 has a resolution of 2400x1080. The DX300 has a display with 397ppi, while the Note 20 has 393ppi. To give you a better idea about the display size and device dimensions (in millimeters):

Name​
Dimensions (HxWxD)​
Display size​
iBasso DX300​
162 x 77 x 17​
6.5"​
Samsung Galazy Note20​
161.6 x 75.2 x 8.3​
6.7"​
iPhone 12 Max Pro​
160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4​
6.7"​

It’s safe to say that the Note20 is the closest to the DX300 in terms of vertical length. My phone is the Samsung Galaxy S8, and here is how the the DX300 compares in terms of the bezels:

Name​
Top (mm)​
Bottom (mm)​
Side (mm)​
iBasso DX300​
2​
5​
1.5​
Samsung Galaxy S8​
7​
6​
2​

Should you not forget, the S8 comes with the Edge display. This being said, iBasso went far more than the extra mile to ensure an industry-leading display in the DAP space.

Internal Hardware

Where do I even begin?

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SoC

Holding it all together is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC (system on a chip) with 128GB of internal storage, 6GB of LPDDR4X-3733 RAM that operates at a frequency of 1866 MHz, an octa-core processor (four Kryo 260 Silver cores operating at 1.84 GHz and four Kryo 260 Gold cores operating at 2.2 GHz), and an Adreno 512 integrated GPU. That’s a lot of technical details, right?

It has to be said that the DX300 currently has the industry-leading SoC and that no other digital-audio-player can match it. Yes, the HiBy R8 also has the Snapdragon 660, but it neither has 6GB of RAM nor 128GB of internal storage. The above-mentioned specifications are on par with Samsung’s 2018 Galaxy A9, which also has the Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage.

This is a breakthrough in the DAP space, as though all players — with the exception of the HiBy R8 — come with 4GB or less of LPDD3 RAM, and feature processors that operate at slower clock speeds. iBasso’s “no other SoC in the field of digital audio players can match it!” claim lives to be true. And yes, this means that even the most expensive DAP on the market can’t match the Snapdragon 660 that is in the DX300.

DAC

Featuring four flagship Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips, the iBasso DX300 is the first and only DAP with a quad DAC — with the exclusion of some LG smartphones. Each CS43198 chip has 2 channel outs, hence why iBasso said there is a total of 8 DAC channels. Each of the 8 channels has a low pass filter. The DX300 features double-paralleled DAC chips which allow the DX300 to have a fully balanced output. What does “double-paralleled” mean? The visual below should give you a visual representation of the double-paralleled design. Usually, there is a DAC chip per channel, the DX300 has two chips per channel. In stereo audio, you have two channels: Left (L+, L-) and Right (R+, R-).

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L1 = L-, L-
L2 = L+, L+
R1 = R-, R-
R2 = R+, R+

Helps a little? So, you can look at it as though there are 8 channels in total, or as though there are 4 that are in parallel.

Unsatisfied with how the average DAPs don’t prioritize audio playback and instead let the SoC and the OS process multiple tasks at the same time, iBasso implemented a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) in Master mode. The FPGA works between the Soc and the DAC. It basically requests data from the SoC and then sends that data to the DAC. The FPGA works in Master mode using two Accusilicone Fentosecond oscillators as the clocks while synchronizing all audio clocks. This way any jitter is reduced and minimized in order to achieve the cleanest audio processing.

In terms of supported audio formats, here is what the DX300’s DAC is capable of:
MQA (X8), APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD
PCM: 384 kHz / 32-Bit, DSD256: 11.2 MHz / 1-Bit

The decoding ability of DSD is lower (DSD256) than the supported DSD512 on the DX220. Also, most of the DAPs in the competing price range of the DX300 support decoding PCM 768kHz/32-Bit, but if I am not mistaken, that would be oversampling. Whether this is important to you or not entirely depends on your needs and average use. Do you listen to your music in these formats or not? If not, then it definitely shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. 384kHz/32-Bit is the highest PCM resolution, everything above is in the oversampling category. The whole format wars have become more and more controversial, especially with the recent MQA backlash, but that’s something that I will not get into. Just enjoy your music, don’t overthink it =)

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AMP

The following are the specifications of the stock AMP11 module:

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Phone Out
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Line Out

Software & Interface


iBasso’s dual-boot OS has been getting perfected ever since it was introduced in their DX200. On one end you have an optimized Android 9.0, while on the other end you have the 5th generation of the Linux-based Mango OS.

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Android (9.0)

The Android OS is slightly different from the usual Android OS. There are some visual differences and some limitations, but the overall experience will feel homelike if you are coming from an Android smartphone. The only thing that bothered me a lot is that the settings aren’t displayed on the first swipe of the notification bar. This is easily fixable through a software update, and I really hope iBasso proceeds to add it in the right corner like in the usual Android OS. Also, due to the large physical size of the DX300, I find the notification buttons (located on the bottom of the screen) to be too low. I think that the buttons should be moved 0.5-1 cm higher up. This is another thing that can be easily fixed through a software update. Besides these two, the Android system is extremely smooth and fast. I couldn’t find a difference in speed and responsiveness in comparison to my S8. The DAPs are really catching up to the performance of smartphones, aren’t they?

There are quite a lot of Android features. One of the notable ones is the flexible homepage. Once you long press on the homepage, you can change whether you want all the apps displayed on the homepage or whether you want the Android standard app drawer. I cleaned up my homepage and am using the app drawer option. You can also change the icon shape (square, squircle, circle, teardrop). To make it feel more like home, there are also widgets that you can place on the homepage. I used the time widget and the Google search widget.

When you swipe left on the homepage, you access a kind of a shortcut desktop that has the Mango Player on the top and the audio settings on the bottom. This is more or less an audio-focused desktop. Besides in the Mango App, this is the only place in the Android OS where you will find the option to switch the DX300 to the DAC mode. This mode allows you to use the DX300 as a USB DAC.

There are three main audio settings: Digital Filter, Gain, Output. All three can be changed through either the notification bar, the settings menu or the swipe-left menu (accessed from the homepage).

With the new Cirrus Logic DAC, there are 5 digital filters:
D1: Fast Roll-Off
D2: Short Delay, Slow Roll-Off
D3: Short Delay, Fast Roll-Off
D4: Slow Roll-Off
D5: NOS (non-oversampling)

I had mine set to NOS, but you can play around and see if you notice any difference and find what suits you.

The gain options are quite standard. No surprises can be found here. There are three gain modes: Low, Medium, High.

And finally, the output setting. This is the setting that allows you to change how the three physical outputs behave as. You can only change the output through software! There are two options: LO (Line Out) and PO (Phone Out). Make sure not to accidentally set it to LO when you are using your headphones/IEMs on the DX300.

Secret tip: To enter the developer mode, go to Settings > System > About device > Press “Build Number” 7 times. Voile, now you have unlocked developer settings (which you should not mess around with if you do not know exactly what you are doing).

Mango App

The interface of this app is quite simple and minimalist, making it easy to navigate through. On the top-left corner, you can go to a menu in which you can search through your music, or browse your internal/external storage for music. In the top-right corner are located all the audio settings: Gapless, Gain, Play mode, Equalizer (graphic with visual representation, parametric), L/R balance, Digital Filter, Media Scan, and Advanced. In Advanced you can choose: Unplug Pause, Indicator, USB DAC, Bluetooth DAC, Display settings, Sleep Timer, System Info.

In level with the above-mentioned settings, if playing an album, the track number will be displayed (e.g. “4/10”). Everything below looks exactly the same as in the Mango OS. There is a large track/album cover art, file format, track’s timeline, track info, playback options.

I’d like to mention that both the parametric equalizer and the graphic equalizer are quite refined. With the graphic equalizer, you can adjust 10 frequency bands — 33Hz, 63Hz, 100Hz, 330Hz, 630Hz, 1kHz, 3.3kHz, 6.3kHz, 10kHz, 16kHz — with 24 stops (+12, -12) of which each stop alters +/- 0.5dB. On the other hand, the parametric equalizer is much more capable and allows you to adjust make incredibly precise adjustments. Besides being able to play around with the visual graphic, you can put number values to pinpoint the adjustments. There are a total of 6 filters, each can be turned on/off individually, or all can be turned on at the same time. Each filter comes with 4 options:

Filter Type (8 total): low pass, high pass, band pass, notch, all pass, peaking, low shelf, high shelf
Fc: any value (no decimals) between 33Hz - 16kHz
Gain: +/- 20dB (no decimals)
Q Factor: any value between 0.3 - 20 (infinite amount of decimals supported)

I know that there are a lot of technical terms mentioned here, but they are not rocket science. Visit this link to gain a basic level of understanding of common types of equalizers and filter types: https://iconcollective.edu/types-of-eq/
Or read iBasso's own DX300 manual where its explained how each filter affects the frequency spectrum: https://ibasso.com/uploadfiles/download/DX300userguide.pdf

Mango OS (5th gen, V 1.02.204)

This is iBasso’s pure audio-focused OS. Unlike the Android operating system, here there are no animation or transition effects, which means everything is snappy and instant when it comes to interaction. This even affects the power on/off animation — there is no animation. You enter the Mango OS by holding the volume knob and selecting “Switch to Mango”.

You will notice that the whole OS is visually quite similar to the Mango App, hence why they share the same name. The OS is quite simple. On the very top (where the notification bar would usually be), the volume and two battery percentages are displayed on the right side. Right below, on the left side, there is a “My Music” menu, in which you can browse, well…. your music. You can see what’s currently playing, all your music files, you can browse the DX300’s directory, browse by albums, artists, genre, or playlists. On the right side, you have the settings menu, in which you will find all the audio settings: Gapless, Gain, Output, Play mode, L/R balance, Equalizer (graphic without visual representation), Digital Filter, Advanced, and also the option to switch back to Android. Once you go into Advanced, there are the following options: DAC, Media Scan, Languages, Display, Power Management, System Info, MTP (media transfer protocol). Then you have the large song/album cover art, and below it, you have the file format information. Finally, right below there is the track’s timeline and underneath it you have the track name, artist, and album. In level, on the left side, there is an icon of sound waves. Once you press it, all the track info (artist, album, duration, path, delete) is shown, and you also have the option to add that track to a playlist. Last but not least, on the right side, you can change the playback options.

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Note: "Not for Sale" is only displayed on my sample DX300 unit. This area is otherwise plain, unless iBasso personalizes it specifically for you.

Bluetooth & WiFi

The DX220 was the first DAP to support two-way Bluetooth 5.0, which provides native support for LDAC and aptx. The DX300 inherited this feature. When it comes to WiFi, the DX300 is equipped with two antennas (2x2 MIMO), which allows it to support up to two streams of data. It also has the dual-band 2.4Ghz/5Ghz ability. The WiFi standard that is implemented is the 802.11b/g/n/ac. On the other side of things, the fairly up-to-date Bluetooth 5.0 is used.

Besides being a transmitter, the DX300 also acts as a Bluetooth receiver. This allows it to have the Bluetooth DAC function, which basically means that the DAP receives digital data from a source and converts it into analogue electrical signal. However, when using it as a Bluetooth DAC, you are limited to AAC and SBC codecs.

Battery

Something’s got to be powering all this craziness, right? Yup, a patented dual power supply structure. iBasso pursued this innovation in the DAP space because they believe that the usual single battery powering the whole system causes distortion that negatively affects audio quality. To be more specific, the DC from the analog section interferes with the DC from the digital section. This is why the battery design is separated into two sections, one 4000mAh battery for the digital section, and one 2000mAh battery for the analog (AMP) section.

The DX300 has THE SoC, THE DAC, THE amp, THE display, so the battery life must be short, right? Nope. I’m sorry to say, but iBasso simply took care of everything. A lot of thought and hard work was put into this device, and the battery definitely wasn’t something that disappointed. It is marketed that the battery can last up to 15 hours and people have found it to be performing pretty close to this number. However, this is just an average, the battery life will be affected by factors such as screen brightness, volume, which format you are listening to, how power demanding your IEMs/headphones are, etc. Not only do the batteries last long, but they also do not take long to charge — only 2.5 hours. iBasso went the right path (imo) with the dual battery structure and it is something that they should perfect and stick to in future models.

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Pairings


Note: The tables below are highly subjective and had no controlled variables. The volume values (%) are purely based on feel and what volume felt "right". I tried to get each headphone/IEM on what I perceived to be the correct listening level. I did try to get them to a similar level, but without direct comparison between them, the values represent nothing more but a vague numerical representation of how much power is needed to get each headphone/IEM on what I would consider a comfortable listening level.

SE (3.5mm):

Low gain​
Mid gain​
High gain​
Sennheiser x Drop HD6XX​
100%​
70%​
60%​
iBasso SR2​
53%​
46%​
35%​
Jade Audio EA3​
35%​
28%​
10%​
SIVGA P-II​
65%​
57%​
46%​
Hifiman Deva​
67%​
59%​
49%​
Dekoni Audio Blue​
83%​
77%​
57%​

Balanced:

Cable​
Low gain​
Mid gain​
High gain​
Sennheiser x Drop HD6XX​
Dekoni Audio 4.4mm balanced cable​
70%​
60%​
40%​
iBasso SR2​
Exclusive original iBasso SR2 4.4mm balanced cable​
40%​
33%​
24%​
Jade Audio EA3​
Ego Audio 2.5mm balanced cables, BQEYZ Spring 2 balanced 2.5mm cable​
25%​
17%​
8%​
SIVGA P-II​
Original 4.4mm balanced cable​
50%​
44%​
38%​

I can confidently say that there was no headphone or IEM that made me push the DX300 to the limits. I noticed that the sound signature is quite familiar, and it comes as no surprise since the DX300 is using the same DAC CS43198 chip that is used on the EarMen TR-Amp — a source my ears are used to listening to. When it comes to sources and amplifiers, I like them to be transparent and I don’t like when they significantly alter the sound. If I prefer any alteration to the sound, it is a slight extension on the bottom and upper frequencies.

It is worthy of noting that you usually want to use the lowest gain setting possible. As the gain is increased, so is the noise. I'd say that you should only increase the gain if you are 75%-90% on your current gain setting. For example, when I was using the Jade Audio EA3 through the balanced output on high gain — which I know is insane since I can listen to them on low gain at 35% — I could absolutely hear the noise floor. This is completely normal, as though the high gain setting is there for power hungry IEMs and headphones, so make sure to use the lowest gain setting!

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Conclusion


Priced at $1249, the more you look into this DAP, the more it fascinates you. It has features that match DAPs that are priced north of $2000. Besides that, it has industry-leading features that even the most expensive DAPs don’t have. After doing some thinking, I think that iBasso introduced a new category of DAPs with the DX300, a category that is more smartphone-like than what we have seen up until now. This includes the large display, slimmer but taller form-factor, an almost edge-to-edge display, fast CPU & RAM, and other specifications that you would seek in a smartphone. Maybe we can call it a "smart digital audio player"? I know that there are people who would like to completely replace their phone with a DAP, but we have yet to see that... it probably requires strict licenses and a lot of legal work, so we might have to wait for quite a while to see that.

When it comes to the sub-$2000 market, I might as well go on to say that the DX300 is the best DAP under 2000 bucks. It has the largest screen with the highest resolution, a flagship quad DAC array, the best CPU in the market, the most RAM in a DAP, the interchangeable AMP module, latest Android software. What else could you ask for at $1200? However, I don’t want you to walk away from this review and thinking that all the competing DAPs are bad. If there is one thing I learned about this hobby, it’s that it is not about technicalities and specifications, though those don’t lie. Once you reach the $1k market, everything from this price point on must have a feature that sets it apart from the rest. Now, depending on what you are looking for, this feature may be more or less important to you. Perhaps you don't care about the CPU, the RAM, the display, and similar specifications. Maybe you care more about extraordinary design or are looking for a smaller form factor. What I’m trying to say is that you must have a clear vision of which features you are looking for and how important they are to you. How much are you willing to pay for those features? These are the things you want to have a straight answer to.

I don’t know, I’ve never been a brand loyal individual, I always look for the best in the specific area that I am looking at. For example, I might have a MacBook laptop, but I have an Android smartphone and a custom desktop PC. I couldn’t care less about a brand name. After my positive experience with the SR2, some may think that I am fanboying the company, but that’s not the case. I did my research, and iBasso always proved to be working on industry-leading products. The company on its own can be seen as rebellious in a way — it’s almost as though they are flipping off the industry and the competition and saying “Level up!”. Pushing boundaries is one thing, but to push boundaries and not overprice your products is something completely different. When it comes to the mentioned specifications, there is no other DAP in this price range that comes close to the DX300. There is no DAP that packs all of these flagship features all-in-one.

I tend to get emotional because I know that there is a team of people behind all this success, behind these industry-leading features, yet so many forget this. There are humans behind all of this. And it’s not as though this is the first time iBasso did something of this nature, it has been doing so since 2011 when the DX100 was launched. I would like to dedicate this segment to thank the engineers, the R&D team, and all others who were involved in the development of this DAP. A lot of dedication and hard work has been put into making this a reality. We are, slowly but surely, catching up with the smartphone world, and it’s because of people like the ones over at iBasso. The DX300 is a huge move forward, a truly significant and important move forward!

Don’t think that your effort is being overlooked, because I know that I am not the only person who appreciates your efforts for the substantial progress of DAPs. Keep working hard and stay being on the edge of the industry.

Thank you for your hard work all these years.



I am neither paid nor am I gaining any financial benefit from iBasso for writing this review. The unit has been provided to me by iBasso free of charge. The review is based on my personal experience, it is completely free of any bias from an external force (whether that's online influence, other people's opinion, or the manufacturer itself). Like all of my previous reviews, unless stated, there is no positive nor negative influence coming from the manufacturer. Also, like my other reviews, this review wasn't written overnight and took many hours of research, photographing, editing and listening experience to result in the article that you have read above.

I would also like to mention that the majority of the information in this review was either directly confirmed with Mr. Paul or was based on my research. All the photography and the graphs were made by me.



Comparison chart:

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HansBarbarossa

Head-Fier
iBasso DX300: Floating over the abyss
Pros: Sound, kit, design, functionality
Cons: No (leaving the price in brackets)
iBasso DX300: Floating over the abyss

Hi friends!

I'll start with an important question: are you ready to dive into the bottomless ocean? Scary, I agree. And if not alone, but with a reliable partner? It is with such a partner in deep-sea voyages in the sound abyss that I want to introduce you.

Today we have a brand new creation from iBasso, the DAP designed to take the flagship pedestal of 2021 - the DX300!

Last summer we told you in detail about the uncompromising-sounding "Mad Max" DX220 MAX, but that device, let's say, is only conditionally portable, and it was released in a limited edition. Our current hero, although he is a kind of ideological continuation of his "MAXimally stuffed" brother, but, nevertheless, was created to take the place of his predecessor in the person of iBasso DX220.

The device inherited a number of remarkable features from its relatives: from the DX220 MAX - two separate batteries (for the CPU and DAC, and the amplifying part), and from the DX150, DX200 and DX220 - the ability to replace the amplification modules (but the old amplifiers are not compatible with the DX300). The rest of the specs are also impressive: a Snapdragon 660 processor, 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, a gorgeous screen, four flagship DAC chips from Cirrus Logic - CS43198 and an FPGA-Master matrix.

Let me remind you that iBasso began its journey with the production of portable amplifiers and DACs. And in 2012, she introduced the DX100 audio player, which won the hearts of music lovers around the world. Later, younger models appeared: DX50, DX90, DX80. And then the flagship DX200 appeared, which, among other things, was notable for the possibility of replacing the amplifier modules. This hereditary trait was passed on to such models as DX150, DX200, DX220 and the hero of our today's review - DX300. Also worth remembering are the recent hits - the iBasso DX120, DX160 and of course the unsurpassed DX220 MAX.

It's time to finish the opening remarks, I will just say as a starting point that the new DX300 is a philosopher and esthete in the world of portable sound, which not only makes the listener enjoy music, but also makes him think about the eternal. But let's talk about everything in order.




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Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)



Specifications


OS: Android 9.0 & Mango OS

DAC chip: 4 × Cirrus Logic CS43198

Removable amplifier: AMP-11

Body Material: aluminum alloy

Headphone outputs: (PO) 4.4mm (Pentacon) BAL, 2,5mm BAL, 3.5мм SE; (LO/PO combined 2,5 мм / 3,5 мм / 4,4 мм)

Digital Outputs: 3.5mm S / PDIF Coaxial

CPU: Snapdragon 660

RAM: 6GB LPDDR4

ROM: 128 GB

Card support: MicroSD

Wi-Fi: 802.11b / g / n / ac (2,4 ГГц / 5 ГГц) 2 × 2 MIMO 5G WiFi

Bluetooth 5.0

USB: USB Type-C

Audio format: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ACC, ALAC, ISO, M3U, M3U8

Battery: 4000 mAh 3.8V lithium ion polymer battery + 2000 mAh 3.8V lithium ion polymer battery

Charging time: about 3 hours

Playing time: up to 14 hours

Size: about 162 mm * 77 mm * 17 mm

Weight: about 300 grams





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Appearance and kit

The DX300 ships in an exquisite two-piece gray box. The first is a hard dust jacket, which, like a chameleon, shimmers with a pearlescent silver color. It contains the name of the device model with an explanation of the contents of "Reference DAP" and a little below the modest name of the manufacturer's brand. Stylish and laconic, I like it.
A large blue box with a black triangular iBasso logo in the center slides out of it.



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In addition to the DX300, this box contains a whole "dowry": screen protectors, a coaxial cable, a nice USB type-C cable, a burn-in cable, a stylish blue leather case and mandatory warranty instructions.
As always with iBasso, the package is complete and impeccable.


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The DX300 looks pretty impressive (162 mm x 77 mm x 17 mm, weight 300 g) and extremely beautiful. It looks like a chic smartphone, and a graceful gilded wheel on the side adds gloss and aristocracy to it. Such an exquisite gadget, I am sure, would be highly appreciated by the Sun King Louis XIV, famous for his refined taste.
Compared to its predecessors, the DX300 has grown in height, but next to the DX220 MAX it looks much narrower. And in terms of weight, I can tell you, these 0.3 kg are practically not felt in the hand. The ergonomics of the device are beyond praise, and the excellent design further emphasizes its originality. Body material - aluminum alloy. The DX300 is available in two colors: black and blue.



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The entire front panel is occupied by a touch screen, impressive in its characteristics (IPS, 6.5 ", 2340x1080 px), with good responsiveness and excellent color reproduction. Not every modern phone can boast of such a display! Above the screen is an oblong LED indicator that changes color depending on from the audio format being played or illuminated while the device is operating / charging.

The back panel in pearlescent gray with rounded edges is made of plastic with a logo triangle and model designation in the center.



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On the right, at the slightly beveled end, the already mentioned wheel for adjusting the volume flaunts, with a pleasant smooth ride. It is also the on / off button for the device. Three control keys lined up next to him: forward, start / pause, back. There was also a place for the “Hi-Res Audio” sticker.

On the left side there is a slot for microSD in case the internal (128 GB) memory of the device is not enough.
The top edge got a digital coaxial S / PDIF output and a Type-C connector for charging the device and connecting to a PC.

Below is the same new replaceable amplifier module AMP-11 with three audio outputs for headphones (combined with linear "LO"): 4.4 mm (Pentacon) balanced, 2.5 mm balanced and 3.5 mm (SE).



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For all kinds of wireless manipulations on board there are Wi-Fi 802.11b / g / n / ac (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz) 2 × 2 MIMO 5G and Bluetooth 5.0 with LDAC and aptX support.

And when connected via USB type-C to a desktop or laptop, the player can also act as an external DAC / sound card.

Unlike its predecessors with a digital-to-analog part (2 × ESS Saber 9028PRO), the DX300 is built on four Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips (two for each channel), which expands the possibilities of implementing a fully balanced output. For the analog part, as I mentioned earlier, the new amplifier module AMP11 is responsible, implemented on the basis of AMP8, but with the use of updated components and an output power of 1240 mW at a load of 32 ohms.
For digital processing and jitter suppression, iBasso's own FPGA-Master matrix is responsible.



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And this device also has an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, 6 GB of LPDDR 4x RAM and 128 ROM, which in conjunction with the optimized Android 9.0 gives excellent results!
Two independent lithium-polymer batteries are responsible for powering the DX300: one (3.8V 4000mAh) powers the digital part of the device, the second (3.8V 2000mAh) - the analog one. Discharging is not synchronous, the indication of each section is displayed in the upper part of the display. One "joint" charge cycle is enough for about 13-14 hours of operation with the option of fast charging (Quick Charge). Well, as always, the type of headphones connected, the format of the audio files and the volume level will have a noticeable effect on the "survivability" of the player.

Summing up this part of the review, we can safely say that the iBasso DX300 was a success: it is impeccably made, looks great, stuffed with modern hardware and has an outstanding technical implementation that even the most expensive ultra players can envy. In general, using the player is a pleasure.



Software and control

Android 9.0 and its own Mango OS are responsible for the "intellectual" abilities of the device.
The DX300 can be installed using APKPure, so any Android program can be found and downloaded on your own in minutes.

The DX300, like its cousins, the DX220 MAX and DX220, has a dual boot, which allows you to choose between Android and the independent virtual Mango player, which has a new stylish interface and even more convenient control.
If you want, in addition to music, access to the Internet, all kinds of programs and streaming services - use Android. If you want a clean audio player, choose Mango OS.
The software update occurs both online (the DX300 finds and installs it by itself when connected to Wi-Fi), and through the manufacturer's website, from where you can download the firmware to a memory card and install it on the device from there. We are familiar with this from the DX200 / 220 / MAX.

A child will also cope with navigation: we swipe across the screen, move the curtains, press with a finger on what we are looking for - everything is simple and familiar, just like in smartphones. Well, if you wish, you can also start and switch audio tracks with the side buttons.
It is worth mentioning that the DX300 is already well optimized out of the box, and the manufacturer promises to regularly improve its software.

So, the player already has a graphic parametric (PMEQ) equalizer and five digital filters: (D1) Fast roll-0ff, (D2) Short delay slow roll-off, (D3) Short delay fast roll-off, (D4) Slow roll -off and (D5) NOS. The last one (NOS) - I personally liked the most.

We have figured out the external and internal content of this player, here everything is fine with the DX300. This is where the most exciting part of our review begins. Forward to an unforgettable audio experience!



Sound

For the most complete and reliable acquaintance with such an expected and dear guest, I used the "gold reserve" from my collection of Headphones / IEM / CIEM: 64 AUDIO A18 and A12t, Vision Ears VE8, VE4.2 and EVE20, InEar PP8, SD-2 and InEar PMX, FIR Audio M5, M4 and VxV, Softears RS10, Beyerdynamic DT250 / 250, Phonon 4400 and Phonon SMB-02.

Before analyzing the sound, the DX300 worked for about 50-70 hours, which, in my opinion, had a beneficial effect on the final formation of its "voice".
I note right away that the device coped well with both low-impedance sensitive headphones and high-impedance full-size models - no noise or distortion was noticed.



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The sound of the DX300 can be described as well-balanced, atmospheric, smooth, extraordinary melodic, with excellent dynamics and elaboration of plans, as well as stunning reproduction of the depth and breadth of an imaginary space.
This is a fairly neutral style with good detail, an absolutely black background, served in a thick and plastic form, with amazing musicality. The DX300, like a brush in the hands of a talented artist, delicately applies layer by layer to the canvas the entire palette of sounds, clearly placing audio images in their places, so skillfully and vividly that the final audio strip is extremely melodic and embossed.



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The device produces a well-balanced sound, with harmonious development of macro- and micro-nuances, an elegantly forced section in the subbass area, a smooth and extremely melodious mid-range register with a slight euphonious "color" in the upper midrange, as well as a clear, graceful and slightly shy high-frequency range. This is an almost flat frequency response, where, despite the accents, the main stage action takes place in the mid-frequency range.

This approach to sound design is not often found, and it must be said, it is impressive! You seem to be splashing serenely in the middle of a calm and friendly ocean, but its black abyss of depth, which is guessed under you, evokes in you an alarming sense of existential inevitability.



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If, for example, a different sound leads to a rapid heartbeat and the injection of adrenaline into the bloodstream, then the DX300, on the contrary, calms, hypnotizes and makes the heart stop, confronting the listener with the fact that everything is finite. It is simultaneously a bewitching calmness and a state of anxiety, acceptance of inevitability and frightening serenity - a kind of musical ocean of Samsara. This sound is not just utterly atmospheric, it has a kind of magnetism, as I was personally convinced.

I would like to delight in enjoying my favorite music for hours, to get bogged down in it, not thinking about time. This is an extremely picturesque, multilevel, melodic, thick and mesmerizing manner. She wraps the listener like a velvet blanket, conveying the melody smoothly, comfortably and harmoniously, smoothly and at the same time playfully.

If you try to summarize the sound of the DX300, then the main features of its character will be: smoothness, wide dynamic range, excellent tonal balance, rich timbre reproduction, excellent depth and breadth of an imaginary soundstage, harmonious reproduction of micro and macro contrast, as well as extraordinary musicality.



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Let's go over the frequency amplitude in more detail

Sub-bass vibrations and roar amaze the ear with their power and intelligibility. This causes a slight chill of anxiety and internal resonance in the body. The bass is thick, dense, textured and at the same time quite fast, despite its neutral-warm manner. He keeps up everywhere and flawlessly weaves into the mid-range register, darkening the background and filling the listened compositions with timbre variety. Here the fade-in and fade-out of sound is perfectly worked out, and the sound palette is also richly laid out. Everything is beautiful and dynamic.

The mids is smooth, velvety, rich in timbre and textured. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. It is an extraordinarily beautiful, well-balanced and melodic manner, with striking contrast and every detail of the composition, where every instrument and every note played is in its place in space. The register is served thickly and at the same time in detail. The timbres and reverberations are conveyed in a picturesque, precise and versatile manner. Male and female vocals are slightly emphasized, they are displayed in relief, dense and naturalistic. It is a comfortable, viscous and textured manner, without harshness or distortion.

High frequencies are clear and concise, they are delivered cleanly and neatly. There is no abundance of "air" or refined after-sounds, but there is a correct working out of small nuances. The register is transmitted accurately and distinctly, without sharpness and distortion. The quantity, as well as the quality of working out Highs, I personally have no complaints. This is an unusually authentic and maximally correct manner, with good articulation, served in a light, graceful and comfortable manner.



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Conclusion

Amazing and somewhat unique DAP! Stylish, modern, comfortable in all respects, with an outstanding implementation of the technical part, functional hardware and a gorgeous screen. This is both a universal multimedia device, ready to work with all streaming services, and an excellent audio player with an unusually interesting and mesmerizing sound.
Bravo iBasso, standing ovation!

In my opinion, the DX300 is good at everything, and simply does not give a chance for nagging and criticism.

It remains only to inform about the cost of this pleasure. The DX300 has a suggested retail price of $ 1199 at the time of writing. Yes, it's not cheap, but that's how much premium sound costs, whether we like it or not.
I recommend iBasso DX300 for purchase without the slightest hesitation - it's worth it.
Last edited:
borjok536
borjok536
what i dont like about this dap is d design..it looks more like a smartphone than a dap...daps should be distinguishable at first look to separate them.from smartphones.. astell&kern.opus shanling or even sony are good at it.. ibasso's pv daps are better compared to this..
HansBarbarossa
HansBarbarossa
gadgetgod
gadgetgod
Nicely written review mate :) I am also eyeing this player for quite some time now. But due to budget limitation for now, settled for a cheaper Android alternative.

twister6

twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Digital Audio Phablet!
Pros: dual independent analog and digital batteries, modular amp design, high quality audio performance and high voltage output, hi-res 6.5” display, Snapdragon 660 and optimized Android 9.0, 6GB RAM/128GB Storage, 2.5mm/4.4mm/3.5mm phone out and line out (w/default AMP11), dual Android & Mango (Unix) OS, fast charging.
Cons: large size, new amps are not compatible with older modules.


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 site, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer website: iBasso. Available for sale directly or other retailers like Audio46.


Intro.

As I mentioned in my previous iBasso DAP reviews, since the release of DX200 their new audio players have been very consistent and focused more on sound refinement rather than drastic design changes, especially when it comes to CPU, GPU, DAC, and even display. MAX was an exception where to maximize the performance and to introduce a dual battery, they had to compromise modular design and transport controls. I still consider it to be as one of the top sounding DAPs, but MAX always felt like a special edition release, rather than the next gen flagship to replace DX220. Plus, I’m sure iBasso grew tired of hearing the same complaint about when they are going to introduce new CPU/GPU. In non-Android DAPs this is not an issue, but with Android ones, sooner or later you will have to upgrade. And they did, in a BIG way!

We are talking about the all-new design, incorporating the best elements of their previous releases and adding new design elements to make it stand out moving forward. You are still going to find dual-boot operating system with Android and Mango OS, modular design with removable amp card, their own updated Mango app (in Android), and even dual analog and digital batteries like in MAX. But the new deign is bigger and bolder, literally, and built on a new optimized Android 9.0 with a fast Snapdragon 660 SoC, utilizes quad CS43198 DACs, introduces FPGA-Master to offload SoC processing, implements a single charger for its dual batteries, and introduces a new AMP11 module with a high-power output and all popular SE and BAL connections.

There is a lot to cover about this DAP, so it will be a long review/guide. But as usual, everything is partitioned and indexed so you can jump to different sections. I have featured DX300 in a number of my reviews already, and now it is time to take a closer and more focused look at this latest iBasso DX300 flagship.

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Unboxing and Accessories.

DX300 arrived in a packaging box with a similar design as their DX220 DAP, featuring a silver open outer sleeve that slides in from the side and a fancy blue carboard giftbox with iBasso logo and name. The top cover of the box, with a foam lining underneath, swings up to reveal a tray with a soft velour-like foam lining, securely holding the star of the show.

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With a top tray out of the way, you will find a number of included accessories, such as a short coax cable for digital SPDIF output, 2.5mm balanced burn-in cable, quality braided sleeve usb-c cable, screen protectors (film and tempered glass), warranty card, and a quick start guide. iBasso recommends at least 200hrs of burn in time and using their burn-in cable, which has a load built-in, is a lot more convenient and quieter since you don’t need to use the actual headphones.

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A custom blue leather case was included as well. It’s a decent quality leather case to enhance the grip of DX300, with a fully open top where the DAP slides in, covered transport buttons on the right side and covered microSD card on the left side, and opening at the bottom to provide the access to 4.4mm, 2.5mm, and 3.5mm ports.

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Design.

Starting with exterior dimensions, DX300 has been truly supersized to 162mm x 77mm x 17mm with a weight of about 300g. I referred to MAX as transportable due to its 700g weight and wider/thicker design. It is true that DX300 is taller, but overall size is still slim enough to slide in a pocket of your jeans or to hold it firmly in your hand. Thus, I’m referring to DX300 as a portable DAP, maybe not exactly pocket friendly for everybody, but it does feel more portable than MAX. As a matter of fact, due to its size and a gorgeous 6.5” IPS display (2340x1080 resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 397ppi) with In-Cell capacitive touch panel, I think iBasso stepped into a new category of Digital Audio Phablets. Btw, my review unit came in obsidian black finish, while they also offer a starry blue finish.

The front of the DAP is flat and occupied solely by a display, featuring a very narrow border where the screen is almost edge to edge. At the top of the display, you have a long indicator bar light (could be turned off in settings) to display color depending on song format and other functionality. The back is aluminum and wraps around left/right sides toward the edges, reminding me a bit of DX160. And while the general shape of DX300 is a rectangular bar with rounded edges, the right side is asymmetric with a sloped edge which enhances the ergonomics of the design for a more comfortable grip to access transport control buttons. All three buttons are the same size, narrow, rectangular, with a nice tactile response and a solid feel. They are not labeled, since the one in the middle will always be Play/Pause, while top/bottom could be flipped and reassigned under Audio Control Button customization setting for either forward/back or the other way around.

Right above the buttons you have a multi-function volume wheel which you can short-press for screen on/off or long-press to power the DAP. The wheel is not flush with the side of the DAP and has a non-slippery edge pattern, making it easy to turn with a thumb while feeling a click action as you turn it to give a more precise control of volume adjustment. I personally find the design and the placement of the wheel to be very convenient since it works great with a case, it is within thumb reach of playback buttons, and due to a large size of the dap you don’t have to move your hand to reach a separate power button to turn the display on after the timeout. Also, keep in mind, iBasso implemented a sensor under the display to enable double-tapping of the screen to turn it on. The left side of the DAP has a spring-loaded slot for microSD card so you can expand the storage with any large capacity flash card.

At the top you have a traditional iBasso setup with 3.5mm Coax output, not optical, electrical only. And usb-c port for charging, data transfer, and digital audio out if you want to connect the external dac/amp. At the bottom is where you host the modular amplifier card, similar to DX200 and DX220 but the card size has changed, providing more room for future expansions. For almost 4 years the module remained the same between DX200, DX150, and DX220. DX300 is a new platform, new bigger design, and it makes sense that module was updated as well. The new default card is AMP11 which has 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm and 4.4mm BAL ports, switchable between phone out and line out. With 3.5mm and 4.4mm having a golden metal plate ring around the port, 2.5mm becomes almost hidden, with some people might even missing it, but if you look closer you will see it between other 2 ports.

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Under the hood.

In the heart of the DX300 design, iBasso decided to use four separate Cirrus Logic flagship CS43198 DACs, arranged in a quad DAC chips array. These 4 DACs now form a total of eight DAC channels, with DAC chips double-paralleled to achieve fully balanced output. On top of that, iBasso implemented Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC 8-core processor, a HUGE step up in comparison to their previous platform. Along with 128GB ROM and 6GB LPDDR4x RAM and with optimized Android 9.0, DX300 benchmark results are very high, matching AnTuTu 3D Benchmark score of other top performing 660/Android 9.0 DAPs (R8 and R6 2020). Keep in mind, DX300 still carries the legacy of dual OS boot, and in addition to Android 9.0 it also supports 5th Gen Linux-based Mango OS. When it comes to playback, it supports most of the lossy and lossless formats up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256, including APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, and MQA (decoding in hardware).

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Another addition to the design is in-house developed FPGA-Master. Of course, iBasso is not manufacturing their own FPGAs, but they did implement FPGA and developed FPGA-Master code to make it function as audio system controller to offload SoC processing by directly requesting audio data, as well as syncing and generating all audio clocks to reduce the jitter. DX300 is a multimedia powerhouse and managing resources between System and Audio Processing is important task in order to maximize sound performance. Furthermore, DX300 USB-C port supports USB 3.1 standard, and Wireless is covered by Bluetooth 5.0 with all the popular codecs and WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac. Wifi also stepped it up with a dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz and two antennas (2x2MIMO) to establish up to two streams of data with the receiving device. According to iBasso, with two spatial streams established, the data payload is divided across both antennas and transmitted over the same frequency band. And results speak for themselves, WiFi signal is strong and download/upload speed is on par and even better than on my Smartphone.

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Adapted from MAX design, DX300 now features iBasso own patented dual battery power supply architecture. You will find 3.8V 4000mAh Li-Po for Digital application and 3.8V 2000mAh Li-Po for Analog application, mostly for AMP card. But unlike MAX where you need to use 2 separate chargers, here you only need one USB-C and can use either QC3.0 or PD2.0 quick chargers, or any other charger, though it will charger slower. In my testing using 4.4mm BAL output w/IEMs, middle Gain, Wifi on and streaming Amazon Music HD, while periodically turning the display on with 5min timeout setting to get more screen time, I was getting approximately 13.5-14hrs of playback time when analog side went down to 0% and digital was down to about 5%.

The last, but not least under the hood is a default AMP11 card, which is based on AMP8 discrete circuit design and secured in place with 2x T3 screws. The analog battery of DX300 provides +/-8V power supply to this amplifier card which has a max output current of 2.7A, providing both high current and high voltage of 7.1Vrms. As I was finishing up this review, iBasso announced AMP11 MKII, a minor update due to a component shortage (discontinued transistor), forcing them to slightly modify the AMP11, still with the same sound characteristics and overall performance (according to iBasso), except max current output is down to 2A now. The phone output of this card is very impressive, 4.4mm/2.5mm BAL out is 7.1Vrms, with a power of 1240mW @32ohm, SNR 125dB, and output impedance of 0.39ohm. For 3.5mm SE phone out you get 3.5Vrms, 350mW @32ohm, SNR 123dB, and 0.43ohm OI. The same output voltage is valid when you switch to Line Out, but if using BAL Line Out with external amplifiers, 7.1Vrms might be too much to handle for some, so a good idea to switch to Low Gain under LO to reduce output voltage.

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GUI.

As already mentioned, similar to DX200/DX220/MAX, DX300 has a similar dual boot system 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 itself. Each one has its 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 DX300 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. But the easier way is to download and install Google Play straight from APKPure which I did without any issues.

Mango OS is a strip down version of operating system built around Mango app interface where the focus is strictly on audio performance 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.

DX300 comes with an updated version of Mango app, v2.7.2 which has a few minor yet still useful changes. There are a few differences between Mango app and Mango OS interface, they are not identical, and I will cover it later in the review, including differences in sound.

With a bigger 6.5” display, you have a better view of the embedded song/album artwork, if one is available. If not, a default image is displayed. As already introduced in v2 app of DX220, one 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 layout 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. One brand new addition is in the lower right corner of artwork window, you have 3-dot shortcut to bring up NowPlaying list of songs to scroll through – very useful feature.

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Below the artwork, you have track info (bit/rate/format) and a scroll bar to advance through the song where you can tap anywhere to skip. While in early versions of Mango app you had to tap and drag the current song position to a new one, starting with v2 you can fast forward/back by simply tapping on a timeline like you would on your smartphone. Unfortunately, this only works in Mango app, not under Mango OS. Below it, you have a shortcut on the left to provide a more detailed info about the song (including adding to playlist or to delete), 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.

In Music search and track management, you can search through your songs (since it is 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), Play mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat, folder play), EQ (on/off, brings you to Graphic/Parametric EQ screen), L/R Balance, 5 Digital filters, Media Scan, and Advanced Setting. In Advanced you can select Unplug Pause (Pause when unplug headphones), Indicator (to enable indicator light), USB DAC, Bluetooth DAC, Display Setting, Sleep Timer, and System info.

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There is also Audio Settings menu under Android Settings where you can adjust the volume, changing the Gain (low/mid/high), change output from PO to LO, Digital Filter settings, set Volume limitation (up to 100), and set volume wheel control (when screen is off). Under Android Setting in Display section, you can find Auto-rotate screen function, Double-Tap screen to wake, and light Indicator on/off enable. As already mentioned, also in Settings under Audio Control Button menu you can enable/disable audio playback button or switch skip next/prev button assignment.

Notification bar swipe down is also VERY helpful where besides the usual WiFi, Bluetooth, and Auto-Rotate shortcuts, you can also change PO/LO, switch between 5 Digital Filters, and Change the Gain.

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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 DX300. There could be more, but these stood out for me.
  • Mango OS start up is faster, while Mango app/Android takes a little longer.
  • 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 click in lower right corner of artwork window, 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.

DX300 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 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.
ibasso-dx300-36.jpg

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.
ibasso-dx300-37.jpg

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed DX300 sound with Traillii and IT07 IEMs while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. As recommended by manufacturer, I let DX300 burn in for 200hrs using the provided balanced burn-in cable before I started sound analysis.

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

DX300 with its default AMP11 has a natural reference tonality with a detailed layered sound. It is more natural and even a touch warmer in mids than a typical iBasso DAP sound I'm used to. I still consider DX300 to be neutral, but this neutrality is tilted toward a more natural and smoother flavor. In many pair ups I tried, of course depending on the tuning of IEMs and headphones, I hear a tighter articulate bass, transparent and natural mids, and airy extended treble with extra sparkle. Also, I hear a relatively black background and a nicely expanded vertical dynamics of the sound which has a very good layering and separation. While being natural and a bit smoother, the sound is still of a reference quality with fast transient of notes on/off to make details pop out.

It doesn't hinder soundstage expansion, creating a natural space with a very good imaging, but I felt that it gave the sound a little more intimate feeling, bringing you closer to the stage, not in every pair up, but in some for sure. Even in those pair ups where the soundstage felt holographic and imaging was more 3D, it still felt like I was closer to the stage.

ibasso-dx300-39.jpg

Mango App vs Mango OS sound.

Some might assume since we are dealing with dual OS on the same DAP, the sound will be the same as well. There are definitely a lot of similarities. While playing the same song at the same volume and with the same filter setting, soundstage is the same, technical performance is nearly the same too, and bass sounds the same as well. But in Mango OS I hear upper mids and treble to be brighter, vocals to be slightly more revealing and treble to have a little more sparkle. As a result, Mango OS "sound" is less colored and more reference to my ears, while Mango app under Android OS sounds a little smoother and more natural. I’m sure for many the deciding factor will be either Mango OS with audio only playback or Android OS with streaming capability, but for others it could also provide a choice depending on pair up synergy with their IEMs and headphones.

Digital Filters Sound Analysis

Digital filters are part of the DAC design, and DX300 offers you 5 choices to access it. Many people complain it is hard to hear the difference, and they are right. You need to have trained ears, listen very close, and have more revealing balanced tuned monitors to spot the difference. Usually, I find the difference between filters to be subtle as well, with an exception of NOS filter.
  • D1 (fast roll off) - deep sub-bass rumble, natural detailed mids, crisp treble (baseline tuning).
  • D2 (short delay, slow roll off) - more sub-bass rumble, a bit thicker body in lower mids, the same treble sparkle.
  • D3 (short delay, fast roll off) - a little less sub-bass rumble, more transparency in lower mids, a touch more sparkle in treble.
  • D4 (slow roll off) - a little less sub-bass rumble, more transparency in lower mids, the same treble sparkle.
  • D5 (NOS no over sampling) - deeper sub-bass rumble, more organic mids, and smoother treble. It feels like NOS wraps the sound in a thin layer of a smooth blanket, very subtle, but it takes some digital shine off the sound, giving it a smoother laidback analog flavor.
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Pair up.

In this section of my review, I will go over how various earphones and headphones pair up and sound with DX300. In each pair up I noted the gain (High Gain or Middle Gain, and Volume level). These are just very brief analysis notes to give you the basic idea.

Pair up with Headphones.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
(HG, v58) - R70x are open back 470ohm headphones, but not every source can make them feel like you are sitting in an open room surrounded by sound, while that's how it felt in this pair up. Overall, tonality is very natural, bass has a deeper rumble while mid-bass sounds more neutral; mids/vocals sound very transparent, effortless, natural, and so does treble with a natural airy sparkle. I was very impressed with vocals in this pair up.

Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (HG, v34) - despite these being closed back, soundstage was very open and exceptionally wide. The sound is very clean and detailed. It is not bright, just very transparent, detailed, layered. Bass has a deep rumble, mid-bass has a more polite punch; mids/vocals are natural, transparent, very detailed, but not too bright, and treble is crisp and airy. In this pair up, again, I felt like mids very shining and less colored.

MEZE Audio Empyrean (HG, v41) - again, not a surprise when it comes to soundstage, being holographic. The sound is balanced, fast, very clean and clear. Again, I hear a deeper sub-bass rumble, fast articulate mid-bass punch, very detailed and transparent mids/vocals, and crisp airy treble. A very clean uncolored pair up sound.

iBasso SR2 (HG, v34) - open holographic soundstage in this pair up. Very articulate fast bass with a deeper sub-bass rumble and fast tight mid-bass punch. Mids/vocals are natural, detailed, very transparent, treble is crisp and airy. It's a great example of headphones where the sound is very clean and transparent, and still sounds quite natural.

ibasso-dx300-40.jpg

With headphones, in every pair up DX300 was driving them effortlessly, efficiently, with a big natural soundstage expansion, articulate tight bass, deep sub-bass extension, clean and transparent mids (no coloring), and crisp airy treble. The thing that stood out for me was transparency and lack of coloring I’m used to with some other DAPs and the same headphones. Perhaps, if you want to add more coloring to the sound in pair ups mentioned above, you can use external amp or wait for more iBasso amp modules.

Pair up with IEMs.

Empire Ears Legend X
(MG, v36) - wide soundstage with imaging that positions sound closer to you, L-shaped sound signature with a heavy bass slam that extends down to an elevated sub-bass, stronger mid-bass punch, thicker lower mids, clear natural vocals, and natural clear treble sparkle. Bass is not as tight in this pair up, but it is big, bold, and analog, sounds like floor standing speaker. No hissing.

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (MG, v16) - wide soundstage with a good height and depth; balanced sound sig with a little more emphasis on mids, above neutral bass with a decent extension and noticeable mid-bass impact, but it is scaled down, not as strong; mids/vocals are the shining star of this pair up, being clear, detailed, natural, layered; treble is bright, with extra sparkle, airy, not harsh but it does have extra energy. With hissing, in this pair up you would definitely want to stay in med gain. If you want minimum hissing, switch to low gain; going to med gain adds more to waterfall hissing when idling or in less busy passages of the song. But when you switch to high gain, hissing is a lot more noticeable.

VE Elysium (MG, v43) - soundstage width is above average with a good height and depth; sound sig is balanced, even a touch u-shaped due to deeper bass extension and extra treble energy which puts natural organic vocals slightly behind relative to lows/highs. Due to Ely needing to be pushed harder, these need higher volume, and raising volume up makes treble even brighter. It was not harsh to my ears, but definitely has higher energy and could be borderline harsh for some where you might want to tame it down with foam eartips. No hissing.

Empire Ears Odin (MG, v31) - holographic soundstage expansion, deep sub-bass with a tight mid-bass punch, above neutral quantity, mids are very detailed, layered, natural, and treble is also crisp and natural. Was surprised to hear the extra depth of sub-bass rumble and added naturalness of EST treble. With hissing, low and medium gain have some waterfall hissing, going to high gain raises the hissing level up, but you will be OK in med gain where it is mostly noticeable when idling or between the songs or in quiet passages of the song.

64 Audio U18s (MG, v35) - wide soundstage with the sound slightly out of your head; warm smooth tonality with a deep analog bass, smooth warm detailed mids, and natural treble sparkle. Very smooth sound, and bass is more relaxed in this pair up. No hissing.

Oriolus Traillii (MG, v34) - holographic soundstage and 3D imaging, very balanced signature with a natural detailed tonality, deep sub-bass rumble, tight articulate mid-bass punch, natural, layered, detailed vocals, and natural well defined crisp treble. Traillii shines in every pair up, DX300 wasn't exception, yielding a great combination of natural detailed tonality. No hissing.

iBasso IT07 (MG, v30) - holographic soundstage, deep visceral bass, smooth natural detailed mids, clear natural treble sparkle. Very clear, transparent, natural sound with a tight and punchy bass. No hissing.

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Comparison.

In this test, I was using Traillii, Odin, and IT07. Each of these DAPs, besides a difference in tonality and pair up synergy, has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities if you need streaming or not, which balanced termination you prefer, how much output power do you need, your battery requirements, etc.

DX300 vs DX220 MAX - In most of the pair ups MAX takes soundstage width to the max, thus as expected its soundstage is wider in comparison to DX300. DX300 soundstage is wide, but not a match for MAX. Other noticeable differences are a blacker background and stronger bass impact when paired up with MAX in comparison to DX300. Again, MAX sets a bar very high, and in comparison, the DX300 bass is more relaxed and scaled down in quantity. Also, DX300 mids/vocals are a little smoother while treble has a little more air and sparkle in comparison to MAX.

Like I said before, MAX set a bar very high, but due to its weight/bulk I find it to be borderline transportable, while DX300 despite its bigger size is more lightweight, slimmer and thinner, and feels more portable. Plus, MAX is built on old DX220 platform, doesn't have modular design, and lacking transport controls. DX300 is built on a brand-new platform with a faster processor, newer Android, and overall super-fast performance. Plus, modular design of DX300 opens the opportunity for future amps with updated performance. And the last, but not the least, single usb-c charger of DX300 makes it more convenient, especially when traveling.

DX300 vs DX220 w/AMP8 - DX300 performance is somewhere between DX220 with stock AMP8 and MAX. The soundstage is wider than DX220 but not as wide as MAX. The background is blacker than DX220, but doesn't reach the same pure black background of MAX, but DX300 is certainly closer to MAX than DX220 w/AMP8. Relative to AMP8, tonality is closer, maybe with DX300 being a little bit smoother and more natural, including some improvements in vertical dynamics. Relative to sound performance, DX300 with its default AMP11 is a step up from DX220 with its original AMP8 (not EX version), giving DX300 a more natural tonality.

But when it comes to Android performance, the gap is wider due to DX300 featuring 660 snapdragon processor and later Android 9.0 version. DX300 is faster, more responsive, and also has a noticeable improvement in WiFi and Bluetooth performance. This one is no brainer, definitely a worthy upgrade.

DX300 vs DX160 - why am I comparing iBasso flagship to its entry level Android DAP (not counting DX120)? Because DX160 sets its own high bar in that price range with its sound performance and because it uses 2 out of 4 DACs like DX300. But it is a prime example of how DACs don't make up the sound, final amp stage is where the magic happens. DX160 is a great DAP, and I can even say that its soundstage a touch wider than DX300. DX160 tonality is a bit brighter in comparison to DX300. But when it comes to technical performance, DX160 is not a match for DX300, with DX300 having a more layered, more dynamic, more textured sound and a blacker background.

And similar to previous DX220 comparison notes, DX160 runs on an older iBasso platform with a slower processor and older Android OS, thus DX160 Android performance, including WiFi and Bluetooth, will be behind DX300.

ibasso-dx300-45.jpg

DX300 vs Hiby R8 - When it comes to sound performance, there are some differences, and the one you find as better will probably depend on your pair up synergy preference. For example, soundstage expansion is very similar, but there are variations in tonality. DX300 bass is tighter and hits a little stronger while R8 bass with the same IEMs/headphones feels more neutral and slightly relaxed. Mids and vocals in DX300 have fuller body and a little colored while R8 is more neutral and more transparent. With treble, I hear R8 to have a little more sparkle vs DX300 treble being a little smoother, but that could be also due to a different tonality of mids. Both DAPs are very powerful and scale up well from driving IEMs to headphones.

Overall Android performance is nearly the same since both feature Snapdragon 660 and optimized Android 9.0. And both have a strong WiFi and BT performance. Also, both have plenty of power to drive anything from sensitive IEMs to demanding headphones. But DX300 has an upper hand with a modular design where there will be more amplifier modules in the future and also dual OS with Android and non-Android mode.

DX300 vs Cayin N6ii w/E02 - These two actually stack up very close in sound comparison. I ended up doing quite a few blind tests, and the only deciding factor here was N6ii w/E02 having slightly more bass impact while DX300 having a little wider soundstage. Otherwise, both have a very similar tonality around their mids/vocals, similar treble response, similar dynamics, and aside from some small variation in bass and soundstage, they come close. They even have the same level of waterfall hissing with sensitive iems.

In terms of overall performance, N6ii has a slower processor and older Android OS, so DX300 has an edge here. Both have modular system with DX300 featuring amp modules while N6ii having dac/amp modules. Also, overall power output is higher in DX300 which going to push harder some of the more demanding headphones.

DX300 vs Lotoo PAW6000 - Some might wonder why I included PAW6k in comparison, but due to the same price I received quite a few questions about it. There are quite a few noticeable differences here. PAW6k tonality is very different, being warmer, smoother, while DX300 has a better retrieval of details and overall sound is more dynamic and more layered. Also, soundstage is wider in DX300.

In this comparison, DX300 is a very fast Android daps where you can run any apps, has modular design, and has a lot more powerful output in comparison to non-Android PAW6k which is designed mostly for audio only playback driving IEMs and “easy” headphones. Another thing to note, Lotoo DAPs are well known for their Parametric EQ, but iBasso Mango app features its own powerful Parametric EQ as well. But if you want a pocket friendly small DAP, PAW6k will suite you better.

ibasso-dx300-46.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 DX300.

Coax out

Tested with iFi micro iDSD BL. I used the provided iBasso cable that worked well. I found the volume on DX3000 to be fixed, output volume adjustable using micro iDSD. The sound has a typical smoother natural tonality I'm used to from iFi micro iDSD BL dac/amp.

Digital audio usb-c out

Tested with iBasso DC03. It works with DX300 without a problem but you do need to install iBasso UAC app to control the volume of DC03, otherwise it will blast your ears when connecting earphones/headphones at full volume. DX300 volume wheel doesn’t affect DC03 volume, need to use UAC app. DC03 is a great sounding usb DAC/amp with a transparent and slightly more revealing tonality and a very big soundstage.

Tested with L&P W2. I found this connection to be more straight forward because W2 has its own volume control so no other app was required to install. And likewise, the wheel on DX300 wasn’t adjusting the volume, but luckily, I was able to do that from W2. The sound was neutral and natural, maybe just a little more revealing connected to DX300 in comparison to my smartphone.

Line Out

As I previously mentioned, you don’t want to be going into external amplifier with 7.1Vrms output, thus better of switching to low or med gain when in LO, low gain probably even better.

Tested with Romi Audio BX2. I set DX300 to low gain, volume at 50, giving BX2 some headroom for its own volume adjustment. With BX2 being a very clean transparent amplifier, it is a great way to checkout AMP11 "coloring" and DAC output sound. When comparing the direct DX300 phone output vs DX300 LO + BX2, the only difference I noticed was in treble, where straight from DX300 I hear more treble sparkle and airiness.

Tested with Cayin C9 in tube mode. This pair up takes the sound to a whole different level by spreading soundstage wider, adding more texture and impact to the bass, giving more natural body to the mids/vocals, and adding extra sparkle to the treble (treble wasn't as prominent when I paired up DX300 with neutral BX2). Just remember to keep DX300 gain at low in this pair up.

USB DAC

USB DAC mode needs to be activated in Advanced setting of Mango app. When activated, you have option to change the gain and digital filters. Win10 recognized it right away, no drivers were necessary. When playing the same song from my laptop + DX300 vs directly from DX300, I found the sound to be nearly identical, only slightly warmer playing directly from DX300.

Wireless Bluetooth DAC

This mode gets activated from Mango app in Advanced setting, and the pair up connection was fast and effortless. Also, I was able to confirm a close to 60ft open area operation until it started to stutter just a little bit. I was only able to control volume from DX300, not from the source. But to my surprise, this connection was only using AAC which I checked under Developer Option on my smartphone.

Bluetooth Wireless

Tested with Sennheiser HD1 M2 AEBT. I found the pair up to be fast and effortless, aptX codec was detected, worked 60ft across the open area without a single glitch. These wireless HD1 M2 headphones are VERY finicky due to higher sensitivity of their wireless antenna. Here, it was the first time I was able to walk so far away and still able to control remotely the volume and the playback from headphones, all that without sound glitches.

Tested with iBasso CF01/IT00. I found the pair up with these TWS adapters to be fast and effortless, and it worked 60ft across the open area, can probably go even further. Crystal clear sound (aptX option was available in BT setting), full remote playback control from CF01. Pair up with TWS could be finicky, here it was a solid effortless connection.

Since I don't have any LDAC wireless headphones, for confirmation I tested with a few wireless dongles and was able to connect using LDAC codec without a problem.

Conclusion.

I ended my previous iBasso DX220 MAX review with “… my imagination already running wild, thinking about what DX3xx could bring to the table.” In my opinion, DX300 release didn’t just meet but actually exceeded my expectations. People will always argue which DAP sounds better based on their sound preference and pair up synergy with favorite earphones and headphones. And there is always going to be an argument about the flagship DAPs pricing which today is all over the place and goes up to a multi-kilobuck level. But you will hardly see anybody arguing about the value of iBasso products, regardless if we are talking about DAPs or IEMs or even headphones. And relative to iBasso DX300, this flagship level DAP still has one of the best price/performance ratios.

In frequent discussions with my readers, I’m well aware that some prefer non-Android DAPs, while others can’t live without streaming. Some want more compact design with the best battery performance, while others don’t mind transportable design and don’t even care about the size or the weight. Thus, there is no single DAP which could be labeled as overall “the best” because everybody has different requirements and different criteria of what they consider to be the best for them. But if you are looking for a fast Android DAP, futureproofed with modular design, powerful amplifier, great natural sound tuning, and don’t mind a super-sized 6.5” multimedia display, it will be hard to find another DAP under $1.2k packing all these features. Now, the big question is when and what to expect in the next new AMP card!
twister6
twister6
@Stuff Jones, do you mean that you want me to copy and paste SQ description of the dap from my Sound Analysis section in Conclusion again?
twister6
twister6
@CharlyBrown I think we talked about it in dx300 thread, and I think I replied already, right? Dx300 is android dap just like any android phone. Mango player is an app (when booted into Android OS) with its own eq applicable only to that app, just like in any other app with their own built-in eqs. But I do agree, would have been cool to have that eq working system wide, like MSEB effects in Hiby daps.
CharlyBrown
CharlyBrown
@twister6 yes, thank you, and I was trying to repeat that in my answer :)

Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
DX300 - The King is Dead! Long Live the King! :D
Pros: innovative system architecture, black background, sound quality, technical performance, improved battery life
Cons: physical buttons easy to press by mistake, UI could be improved. Not much else :)
Introduction:

Well, hello there! :)

I think iBasso have by now thoroughly established themselves as a well-known and respected manufacturer of DAP’s (not to mention IEMs, cables etc. Which I just mentioned)

With this in mind, it does seem somewhat redundant to provide an introduction to the company, given both the previous point I made and the fact that the DAP under discussion today is essentially their (co-?)flagship.

As such, is likely to be under investigation by knowledgeable audiophiles who are already a great many rungs up that metaphorical product-purchase-price-performance ladder that extends ever upwards, gradually decreasing in size as viewed from the bottom.

Or one could use a similarly verbose analogy concerning a slippery slope, but I think the point has been made sufficiently and have no wish to labour it any further :)

Suffice to say, iBasso are a Chinese audiophile gear producing company of some prestige, having been one of the first trailblazing DAP makers in the market, and they continue to up their game year on year.

Today, I’ll be reviewing their latest - and possibly greatest – model; namely, and to whit, the DX300 :)

This is a portable DAP, on the larger side of such products, but there’s quite a few other flagship DAPs of similar size on the market, so this is not especially noteworthy.

I should note that I’ve also been reviewing iBasso’s DX220MAX DAP and their latest IEMs, the IT07 alongside this one, so there will naturally be some crossover between the 3 reviews, as there’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time in terms of basic information about the company and products, and it also gives me the opportunity to add some hopefully useful commentary on comparisons, synergies and so forth :)

The details of the DX300 can be found on iBasso’s website here:

http://ibasso.com/product/dx300/

A great deal more information, Q&A, reviews and impressions may all be found on the product thread here on Head-Fi:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/iba...b-ram-128gb-rom-new-firmware-2-6-2021.943221/

The RRP at time of writing was approximately $1’199 (price may vary from one dealer or region to another). It’s available in a deep dark blue, or midnight black options.

My sincere thanks to Paul and the team at iBasso, for providing me with a review unit to keep in exchange for an honest review.

Well, it’s time to see what all the fuss is about, in what indeed is the most literal way possible, by proceeding on to the ‘Photos’ section :)

Photos:
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Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

The packaging and accessories are very nicely done, very much at the standard that I’ve become accustomed to with iBasso. No complaints at all.

I particularly liked the new design on the box, that opens in a kind of clamshell way, with a stylish angular cut into the sides of the box.

There’s a nice and delightfully comprehensive array of accessories, from a burn-in cable to various adaptors which will serve you well if you wish to use the DX300 as part of an audio chain perhaps involving an external amp.

The DX300 comes with a case of leather-like appearance. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a bad batch of these cases – the first batch it seems - so that for some users, the case is too loose, such that the DAP could fall out if the case were turned upside down.

Mine seems to have been one of them.
However, this seems to be an issue that is only affecting a small percentage of users, and I’m sure iBasso would happily issue a new case should the issue be raised with them; over the years, I’ve found their customer service to be second to none and have no worries about that side of things.


Ergonomics & UI:

I mentioned previously about the size of the DAP.

The good news is, it’s a fair size, but not prohibitively so. I actually compared it with my Samsung Galaxy S8+ phone in its slimline leather case, and they were basically identical in size and shape. So for anyone familiar with that phone, that should give you an idea regarding the portability of the DX300.

I don’t tend to wear trousers/coats with big pockets, so in daily use, I’ll tend to leave my phone in my bag when out and about, or in my coat pocket if I need more frequent access.

You can use it in jeans/sweatpants pockets, but for me, that’s just a little bit cramped in the case of jeans, and I’d be slightly worried about it falling out, in the case of sweatpants/joggers, for example when sitting down.

Anyway, none of this should be seen as a negative point really; as I mentioned, this size of DAP is quite common at the flagship level, and I suspect that’s mainly due to requiring that quantity of ‘real estate’ in order to fit in all the tech that provides the kind of sound signature desired at these lofty heights.

Also, it does allow them to use an excellent 6.5” IPS capacitive touchscreen with a 2340x1080 resolution. I’ve read people commenting on the Head-Fi thread about watching film/TV on the DX300 and what a joy it is, due to the superb screen and of course the sound quality to go with it!

Closer inspection will reveal that the sides of the DAP taper inwards towards the base – the side with the volume wheel more so than the other. I actually really liked this, as it made for a much more ergonomic feel to this fairly large DAP, making it somewhat easier to hold.

In use, the gold volume wheel is fine. I think I might have preferred it to come with the action a bit stiffer, so as to reduce unintended rotation or clicks. That’s a tiny thing though and rarely an issue.

I’d say the ease of navigation and physical usage overall is a step back from the DX220.
I know, shock/horror! It’s not terrible or anything, just to put your mind at rest, and of course personal ergonomics are going to factor heavily here. Someone with larger/smaller/wider hands than mine will probably have differences in their user experience.

I just personally found it a bit hard to hold the DAP and navigate around on it.

The position of the 3 navigation buttons is in the place where my hand naturally holds the DX300, either right-handed or left, due to the position of the volume wheel.

Unfortunately, the buttons have a very light action to press them, and with either hand, I’ve found myself pressing them accidentally at times.

Also, in terms of the software, if I pause a track in the middle of a song and later click the button or the on screen icon to skip backwards (to go back to the start of the song), it instead skips back to the previous song.

I think – although I can’t be sure – that it used to do this differently.

It ought to skip back to the start of the track with one click, and then back to the previous track with a second click (or two clicks executed back-to-back quickly).

Also, when playing a playlist on the ‘shuffle’ (randomised) mode, if I accidentally go back to the previous song, but then try to return to the original song by clicking the forward button/icon, then it goes to a new randomised song instead.

Given that I probably spend at least 70% of my listening time on playlists being played in shuffle mode, you can see how such things rather quickly become an irritation, especially as I quite often have to pause the music for various reasons and wish to re-start the song afterwards.

Finally, when I’m on the main menu where it shows all of my playlists and I want to flick my finger up or down to scroll, it now shoots at lightning speed from one end of the list of playlists to the other. I can go very slow, or super-fast, but it’s no longer simple and intuitive to scroll back and forth, and selecting a playlist is a bit frustrating.

When I click on a song in the playlist, and later click to go back to the playlist (to select a particular track, or get back to the same one), it returns to the beginning of the playlist, rather than going back into the playlist at the point I was last on, which would be my personal choice. Others may feel differently though, so this will depend on your own preferences.

None of these things are particularly dealbreakers, however.

The physical buttons can be temporarily disengaged in the menu I believe, and any issues with the software can be reported to iBasso, who are generally very responsive and do release frequent tweaks and updates to the FW of all their DAPs.


Tech Specs:

I’ve already provided links to iBasso’s product page and the hugely comprehensive Head-Fi DX300 thread. As such, it would be somewhat redundant to repeat swathes of information and explanations, not to mention that it would make this review ridiculously long!

However, the key points are as follows:

The DX300 features some pretty ground-breaking tech, in terms of what is usually used in most DAPs. That’s not to say these things haven’t been done before, or featured in other flagship DAPs, but it’s certainly rare to see all of these together in one package, and certainly at this price point.

We have a quad-DAC, featuring 4 Cirrus Logic CS43198 chips.

This is a change from iBasso’s use of Sabre chips previously, so it will be interesting to see how it sounds.

It has an in-house programmed FPGA chip, which handles audio playback processes (something normally done by the SoC and OS); the effect of this is – as far as I can tell – to make playback more smooth and with less noise.

With a similar goal in mind, the DX300 has adopted the idea that they first used in the DX220MAX of having separate power supplies for the analogue and digital sections, which should lead to a significant reduction in noise, and a blacker background for us as a result.

Also, worthy of note is that unlike the DX220MAX, they’ve been able to engineer this such that the whole unit – both batteries – are now simultaneously charged via a single USB-C cable. Hurrah! Note that the different sections will draw different amounts of power, and hence will lose battery life at different rates, but once either side reaches maximum power, it will not charge any further, instead just staying topped up whilst the other side continues charging its way to maximum power.

I found the battery life to be around 13 hours, playing mostly FLAC files, including hi-res 24 bit files. So it’s a good amount, and an improvement on previous models which will doubtless be welcomed by many.

The DX300 features an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip, and they’ve only gone and whacked an extra 6GB of RAM onto that too. So you should be looking at a pretty snappy response, with processing power to spare for even the most demanding of audio files (such as myself, ho ho) :)

Finally, the DX300 is basically moving iBasso into a new era in terms of its design and architecture, relegating the DX220 range – of which the DX220MAX was the last and greatest landmark – into a kind of obsolescence; well, as obsolescent as any iBasso product ever gets. In the last year or so, I’ve seen them releasing firmware updates for the DX80 and DX100, their first DAPs which were released many years ago now.

Not to mention that their DAPs have generally been so good and offered so much value that people have continued to use/purchase them years after they were first released.

What I mean here though is that the DX150, DX200 and DX220 were all built around a modular system, where the amp section could be removed and a different Amp card slotted in. The final product of that old line-up – the DX220MAX – was notable for not featuring this system, although given the quality and power of the amp section that they did put into it, this was largely considered no great loss.

However, let joy be unconfined: iBasso are continuing the swappable Amp module architecture here with the new DX300.

Now, it’s a different size and shape of Amp unit, so there will be no compatibility between the DX300 and previous DAPs there, but the good news is that the new architecture seems to offer more space for them to work with.

I am surely not alone in hoping – nay, fervently praying – that this will lead to an updated version of their excellent AMP9, only this time featuring dual Korg Nutubes :D

However, let us not get ahead of ourselves.

What this existing new AMP11 features is the enticing combination of 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced outputs, plus line outs of course.

It’s powered via USB-C, which can also be employed to use the DX300 as a USB DAC. There’s a co-axial output next to that as well, so a great many bases and use-cases are being covered here :)

It also has more in common in terms of its ‘DNA’ with the former AMP8; whilst it shares the multi input/output format of the AMP11 (and raises the bar on that), it is based around a discrete architecture which has various benefits (and financial costs!), one of which – if I understand correctly - is permitting a higher level of voltage and current whilst maintaining a low impedance. So in – ahem – Layman’s terms, this means more power to get the best out of your IEMs or headphones, but without the hiss that might normally accompany it :)


Finally, the DX300 comes with a satisfying 128GB of on-board storage, in addition to accepting a micro-SD card.

Well, this has been a lot of technical talk.

However, I’m no electronics wizard myself; indeed, if there were a Hogwarts for electronic wizardry, I’d probably flunk even the kindergarten entry exam.

So rather than continue to bombard you with a veritable torrent of facts, figures and so forth, I will simply limit myself to saying that there’s a few TOTL DAPs out there with unique internal architectures, and of the examples I’ve owned myself (DX220MAX, Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and Sony WM1Z), it’s generally been notable that such architectures have brought about significant benefits in terms of audio performance.

Which, after all, is what we’re all about here, isn’t it?

It’s all very well having an 8-core flux capacitor and being able to throw open the switches on the sonic oscillator and step up the reactor power input 3 more points, but if it isn’t making our IEMs sing like the angel Gabriel then what’s the use, eh?

With this in mind, let’s segue seamlessly into the summary of the sound! :)


The Sound:

To test this DAP, I listened predominantly with the Unique Melody MEST, as it’s the best IEM I have in terms of clarity, micro-detail retrieval and sub-bass depth and impact (barring my Nemesis, but that’s just too sonically coloured for this job!).

Added to that, of the IEMs I have with similar sound qualities, I’d say it’s the one with whose signature I am most familiar, hence it’s an ideal choice for critical listening with a new DAP.

Naturally, I also tested with the iBasso IT07 IEMs, since I was reviewing them at the time anyway, and also I’ve noticed in previous reviews and very pleasing synergy between iBasso’s DAPs and IEMs when used together.

Test tracks were picked from a varied group of genres, and were predominantly lossless FLAC or WAV files, with many of those in 24 bit hi-res format.

And so to the million dollar question: “enough of this prevarication! How does the ruddy thing sound, Layman1? Get on with it!”

Oh, you were finished? Oh, well allow me to retort.. :D

Allow me to retort.png

I mentioned in the “Ergonomics and Tech Stuff” section, the DX300 features something of a deviation from previous iBasso DAPs; it’s the first to feature not only four DAC chips, but specifically four Cirrus Logic CS43198 chips, rather than the Sabre ones used previously.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I found the DX300 to be quite different in comparison to the DX220 and DX220MAX.


More on that later, but here’s a quick summary of how I hear the sound signature of the DX300:

It’s a bit warmer and more musical than the stock DX220 or DX220MAX.
That’s not to say it’s lacking in technical qualities, not at all.

It combines an outstanding technical performance with a modestly warm and slightly analogue signature to my ears; despite the vocals coming forward a bit more prominently in comparison with the DX220, the DX300 is pleasantly smooth, especially in the treble, which can be especially helpful if you have a pair of IEMs which you might otherwise find a bit peaky or sharp occasionally. To reiterate though, this does not compromise the technical performance of this DAP, which is top class.

I would note however that the reverse will hold true; if you’ve got an IEM that you feel is maybe a bit toorelaxed in the treble region (and this is a big deal for you), then you might want to bear in mind that the DX300 is not going to help matters too much here.

Of course, there’s always things that can be done to tweak the sound signature in these situations, from cable and ear tip selection all the way through to playing with filter settings or adjusting the EQ settings.

It has a soundstage that is delightfully wide, also tall and fairly deep as well.
I hear excellent levels of separation, imaging and layering; this is all aided by the foundation brought by a very well-engineered black background.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s an exciting level of power on offer here, and I don’t see the DX300 struggling to drive full size headphones any time soon.

It plays well with all of my IEMs, although I’d observe that, with the comparative warmth of the DX300, users with particularly warm IEMs might want to try to demo this DAP first, to ensure that their IEM of choice is going to have a good synergy.


Now I’m going to give a more in-depth breakdown of my findings:

When looking at the sound signature of DAPs – especially at the upper midrange of price or TOTL - what will often determine whether it’s right for you (dear reader!) is the synergy it may or may not have with the IEM’s or headphones that you have, or plan to get.

It’s often said that it’s best to pair warm IEMs with a neutral DAP, and vice-versa – unless you’re really going for an “all the dials turned up to 11” kind of experience, like when I whacked a slam/rumble-increasing Ares II+ cable on my EE Nemesis bass-cannon IEMs :)

So with that in mind, the DX300 comes across as a moderately warm DAP to me.

Not as much as some, for example a stock Sony WM1Z, but certainly in comparison with the DX200, DX220 or DX220MAX.

With a warm earphone (such as the EE Phantom or Stealth Sonics U4) and a very warm, intimate track like “K.” by Cigarettes After Sex, it can start to sound very slightly congested, that usual space between the notes and instruments being squeezed out. But switch to a more neutral-reference IEM like the Stealth Sonics U9 (which I’ve reviewed previously) and that isn’t an issue.

With “September Grass” by James Taylor, which is fairly warm and fairly intimate, but not to the degree of the previously mentioned song, that impression of congestion disappears, so it really is more of an outlier effect, I think.

Generally, that warmth on the DX300 is fortunately not coming at the cost of technical performance. It’s capable of surprising levels of detail, and I should clarify that by saying that I don’t mean “oh wow, I had pretty mediocre expectations of this DX300 and it has managed to surprise me”, but rather I expected this to perform like a flagship DAP and it has still managed to surprise me.


With the Unique Melody MEST, I listened to Garratt Kato’s ‘Love is an advert’ and ‘Fast Times at Dropout High’ by the Ataris (superb alternative version from their 2017 ‘Silver Turns to Rust’ album) and on both of these tracks with which I’m very familiar (and on IEMs with which I am very familiar), I heard new details popping out that I hadn’t noticed before and was able to more clearly distinguish instruments that were fairly buried in the mix.
This is partly the result of the DX300’s excellent levels of detail retrieval, along with its accomplished layering and separation.

The DX300 – as perhaps might be expected, really seems to have a good synergy with iBasso’s new flagship IEM, the IT07.

The levels of detail retrieval brought out in the IEM, along with its clarity and technical performance were quite remarkable, and there was a very musical quality to it as well, helped no doubt by the increased warmth and richness of the DX300, compared with the previous DX220.

Comparisons:

DX220 (Amp 1 Mk II): Still sounds very good, but switching to the DX300 (or DX220MAX) I note immediately a greater, more holographic soundstage and separation. The music is playing in a larger venue, with more atmosphere. A more laid-back feel with the DX300; soaking in all the details from a deckchair, rather than out surfing the waves. So to speak.


DX220MAX: I hear a wider soundstage on the DX220MAX, with other dimensions about the same. The sound signature overall is significantly more full-bodied, with more note weight and power.
I hear more sub-bass impact and thump on the DX220MAX. More clarity and separation. Faster transients.
Vocals slightly more forwards. It’s closer to neutral-reference than the DX300, but still with iBasso’s house speciality of a delightful tinge of warmth and musicality.

For my personal tastes (important distinction), I'd overall rate the DX220MAX higher in terms of audio performance; note however that this is a personal preference and that the DX220MAX costs around 50% more than the DX300!

Also, as mentioned previously, a lot of this will depend on your own IEMs and how good a synergy they have with either DAP.


Conclusion:

So, to wrap things up, here’s a soundbite-rich, media-friendly summary of things!

The DX300 boldly takes iBasso into a new era, and does so with considerable swagger.
Whilst I think there could have been some improvements with the physical interface (volume wheel and navigation buttons) and a few niggles with the UI, iBasso have shown themselves to be responsive in this regard, and frankly the player is otherwise so good that this is not enough to lose it more than half a star in my rating.

The DX300 features innovative engineering with separate DAC and amp sections, each with their own battery and a superb black background that allows the qualities of the tuning to shine.

It’s a new kind of tuning for iBasso; a comparatively smooth, warm and musical signature that doesn’t compromise in any way on the technical performance.

TOTL soundstage, imaging and layering are complemented by truly accomplished levels of detail and resolution. There’s a richness and a smooth natural musicality to the timbre that will delight fans of such signatures.

Overall, the DX300 in my opinion has certainly elbowed its way to the small group of DAPs that are an easy recommendation to anyone looking to make a new purchase around this price point.

Well done iBasso. Onwards, and very much upwards!

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LarryMagoo
LarryMagoo
I'm not a DAP guy as my iPhone delivers all the power I need for Apple AirPod Max cans. My only comment would be looks like a very poorly designed Volume knob AND Placement! If I had that thing I'm sure that I would be ripping that knob off before it reached a month old! 😝
M
mikemuzak
I've had this for a few days now and I'll concur... It is rather large.
Reactcore
Reactcore
The DAP hype started with a few like Astell&Kern in 2012.. i'm still lovin my old AK120 1st gen. With its dual Wolfson chips (former Cirrus) i personally prefer Wolfson's warmer sound to Cirrus.
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