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[Review] iBasso D-Zero, with FiiO E7 Comparison

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by keanex, Sep 10, 2011.
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  1. keanex Contributor
    I would like to thank iBasso for the opportunity to review their new USB and portable D-Zero amp/DAC. iBasso has been making quality amps and DACs for audio enthusiasts for years and I consider it an honor for them to allow me to review their product.
    Pros: Looks, build quality, sound quality, battery life.
    Cons: No volume indicator, no EQ
    Equipment Used
    Sources: MacBook Pro, iPod Classic
    Headphones: Fostex T50RP, Audio Technica Ad900, HiFiMAN RE272, Marley Audio Get Up Stand Up Earphones
    Very sleek packaging here. It's the kind of beautiful minimalistic packaging I would expect out of Apple, I mean that in the absolute best way possible. The top simply says "iBasso Audio" and the front side has the company's website. The box slides out of this little sleeve to reveal a white covering. When removed the user is greeted with a carefully packaged D-Zero. Foam surrounds every inch of the D-Zero to ensure it's safety. After the D-Zero is removed the user is greeted with a plastic warranty card similar to a credit card with a hand written date and model, I absolutely loved this it gives personalization in a time where almost everything else is automated. Once the last piece of foam is removed the user is greeted with another white covering that says "iBasso Accessories" in a fun looking font.
    Once removed you'll find the included accessories. A USB cord to connect the D-Zero to your computer, a 3.5mm male to male aux cord and a leather pouch as opposed to a pleather pouch. Little things like this add much class to the packaging and company.
    Overall the packaging is very Apple like. Everything is neatly placed and kept snug. The warranty card with personalized writing on it, the real leather pouch and the simplicity of it all has really caught my attention.
    Design and Build Quality
    Like the packaging the D-Zero is minimalistic and sleek. The anodized aluminum housing provides a beautiful, yet strong housing for the internals. On top D-Zero by iBasso Audio Headphone Amp+USB DAC is written in an unobtrusive way. On the front there's a headphone jack, an aux jack, a power switch with accompanying white LED to let you know it's on, and a volume knob. Everything on the front feels quality. The headphone jacks are solid, the power switch is very durable feeling and the click feels high quality, and the volume knob spins smoothly.
    On the back there's a USB output for charging the D-Zero and for connecting it to a computer, a gain switch and a USB charge switch. Everything back here feels very solid. There's two LEDs as well, a red one to indicate charging which also blinks to let you know when to charge it and an orange one indicated USB connection.
    As for the battery's supposed 30 hours of use unplugged, I have ran this into the ground and got 28 hours before it caved. It's no 70+ hours of the E7, but realistically that much is overkill.
    Overall this is built great, I have no qualms with it at all. It screams class to me, I absolutely love the looks of it as well.
    Sound Quality
    I don't believe in electronics burn-in, but for the sake of doing a proper review I gave the D-Zero 50 hours of burn-in before I made judgements on it.
    Overall this is very similar to the E7 in sound. This is due to both of the companies choosing to use the excellent Wolfson WM8740 DAC which has been a popular choice for quality in budget minded DACs, as well as the same Texas Instrument's PCM2706 USB receiver. The amp is where things differ. The E7 uses a TPA6130A, while the D-Zero uses an amp based on the AD8656, which is a highly regarded amp. The D-Zero's amp is not only much cleaner sounding, but it is also stronger.
    The D-Zero does sound very similar, it's a clean boost that doesn't favor any frequency to my ears, much like the E7 which is said to be rather neutral. The biggest surprise to my ears though was even with the lack of bass boost on the D-Zero, my Ad900 still sounded as bassy as with +1 bass boost on my E7. That isn't to say the D-Zero has a dark signature, because with my T50RP the bass actually seems punchier, but not more abundant and the highs are brought out. Everything simply sounds clear, boosted and full through the D-Zero.
    When I plugged my T50RP into the D-Zero the difference was immediately noticed between the E7 and the D-Zero. The T50RP opened up, the highs felt more alive, the mids came forward, and the lows gained some punch to them without losing extension. Considering the same DAC and receiver chip are used, I can only assume that the D-Zero's amp is in-fact better. The T50RP felt more alive, more separated and faster than on the E7, which I'd always thought the T50RP sounded a bit lifeless and slightly bloated through.
    Through my Ad900 I was worried about the loss of bass from the EQ on the E7 being a problem. I put on my bass test, James Blake's "Limit To Your Love" and my worries disappeared. The bass was just as strong, fast and extended as ever. The mids and highs were completely unaffected though, they even sounded a bit cleaned up and less congested.
    Overall I'm very impressed with the D-Zero. It's a very nicely rather neutral boost in sound that has a decent amp attached to it in a slim package. 
    This is a great piece of equipment. I would buy this any day over the E7. The build is solid, the packaging and design is sleek and the sound quality is fantastic for the price. The clean boost in sound and decent amp on this make it a great value that is hard to pass up on.
    Comparison of the D-Zero and the E7
    With these two being very similar products I feel a direct comparison in addition to a review is necessary. All of the pros and cons are from the view of the D-Zero looking at the E7
    -Slimmer design
    -Feels better built
    -More power for higher impedance headphones
    -Hi/low gain switch
    -Cleaner sound
    -On/Off switch and Volume are more responsive
    -Nice rubbery matte feel
    -Only has 1 output
    -Battery life is 1/2 of the E7
    -No bass boost
    -Volume knob isn't numbered
    -No LED Screen, though this isn't really a con, just a preference
    Between the two I find myself liking the D-Zero more. The build quality is good on both, but the D-Zero feels more solid while being slimmer. The sound of the E7 and D-Zero are very similar due to them both using the same DAC and receiver and the amps are actually very similar due to the D-Zero amp being based off the same amp the E7 uses. The D-Zero sounds a bit cleaner though, the E7 actually sounds a bit, even if only very slightly, muddy in comparison. The amp on the D-Zero is also a bit more powerful, it definitely gives my T50RP more juice than the E7 and it's easy to hear the difference. The battery life is less than half of the E7, but honestly 30 hours is fantastic.
    When using the D-Zero I find myself missing two things that I really miss. The first is the additional headphone output. It's definitely unnecessary, but I've become very accustomed to listening on one headphone and burning in another with the E7 I'll have to compensate. Lastly I miss the volume indication. I do wish iBasso would put knobs from 1-10 on the D-Zero. Nothing major though, the D-Zero is a quality product.
    Come see more pictures of the iBasso D-Zero here!
  2. mrarroyo Contributor
    Nice impressions, I too like the D-Zero a lot and at $109 USD it is a  very nice deal. Unlike you I do not mind not having a screen display nor a numbered volume pot. Most portable small amps do not really have and when they do is not how I set the volume.
    Currently I am trying to finish a comparison with the UHA4 (AD8610 based) using an iPod as a source and a pair of Yuin OK1 buds (TF10, Westone 2, etc). For now I can say that I find the soundstage of the UHA4 a tad wider but the D-Zero has more punch and impact. The volume pot on the UHA4 is the best of any amp under $250 USD, IMO of course.
  3. keanex Contributor
    Made some minor corrections, thanks iBasso for the information.
    As for cons, I only list not having an LED screen as a con because some will care. I personally prefer it not to have one, it makes for a slimmer more portable machine. This amp is great for portable use, as well as a home solution for budget minded users. It definitely edges out the E7, and uDAC2 in my listening experiences.
  4. holden4th
    Actually, according to Fiio's literature that came with my E7 it uses both the AD8656 and the TPA6130A. One is used as a preamp and the other as a power amp but they don't say which is used for what function.  My research suggests that the ADI is an Op amp and the TI is purely a power amp. So does that mean that iBasso has their own power amp to work with the AD8656?
  5. keanex Contributor
    iBasso says simply that they use an amp based on the AD8656. I'm no DIY so I don't want to take it apart to find out, perhaps another who's more crafty will and let us know some specifics. What I do know is that the D-Zero definitely amps my T50RP much cleaner than the E7. It's definitely a noticeable difference.
  6. ClieOS Contributor
    I'll do that. But IIRC, E7 use AD8692 as pre-amp, not AD8656. Also, there is not power amp on D-ZERO, just AD8656 for everything.
  7. keanex Contributor
    Eh regardless of what is in what, I think the important thing to note here is that the D-Zero uses a better amp, or at least one that provides more juice than the E7. I find it to be much cleaner and pairs much better with my T50RP than te E7.
  8. PhoenixClaw
    thanks for review! I just recently purchased the e7 and I am looking forward to compare the two personally
  9. ClieOS Contributor
    For the amp section, I am interested in how it compares to E6 actually. Hopefully my D-ZERO will arrive soon.
  10. keanex Contributor


    Can't wait to hear your impressions!
  11. JamesMcProgger
    Thank for the impressions, Keanex.
    did you notice if the D0 picks any interferences? for example when you put the cellphone close to it and send a text or make calls? (when using dac+amplifier or amp alone, this wouldnt affect DAC alone if i understand correctly)
  12. keanex Contributor


    I've used this as a USB DAC/Amp through my MBP and as a stand alone Amp. My phone sits right next to it at all times, and in the same pocket when on the go. I've never noticed any interference at all. My girlfriend has even texted multiple times because I had it on silent and I've noticed nothing. So to answer your question, no interference!
  13. JamesMcProgger
    ^ good news. I have an iBasso D3 and it sounds like a freaking teleghraph machine every time I get a text, glad to see this is not the case.
  14. ddr
    This might not be a fair question, but how does the d-zero compare to a e7/e9 combo?  the idea of adding an E9 to an E7 gives me a sense of more power without being refined.  but if a d-zero already does that and not overly so, it seems like a great alternative for me.
  15. kostalex
    Nice read! Though I avoid "to listening on one headphone and burning in another". It is like listening a hybrid, produced by complex dynamic load.
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