After being impressed by the DC06 Pro from iBasso, I thought that was the best we were going to get from a DAC dongle for a while. With the launch of their new DC Elite, that has the opportunity to change. They are labeling the DC Elite as a flagship DAC dongle, with technology carried over from iBasso’s high-end players. There’s a more significant presentation with the Elite compared to most other dongles, so could this set a new standard?
What You Get
- USB-C to USB-C Cable
- USB-C to Lightning Cable
- USB-C to USB-A Converter
- Leather Case
- User Manual
This is quite the heavy-duty build for a DAC dongle. Right out of the box, there is a considerable amount of weight to it thanks to its aerospace-grade titanium alloy materials. It gives the DC Elite a more premium feel compared to a lot of DAC dongles, which warrants its flagship status. There are some sharp edges featured here, but thankfully the Elite is one of the rare dongles to get its own case. It also carries its own volume dial, but there’s a weird shield attached to it that makes turning the knob a little awkward.
For your headphones, the DC Elite offers 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced plugs. It takes a detachable USB Type C connector that is located right next to the volume dial.
The DC Elite houses an ROHM BD34301EKV chipset, which is considered a desktop-level component capable of ultra-high sample rates. You can expect to be able to listen to your tracks at a maximum of 32bit/768kHz while using DSD512, or PCM. An in-house FPGA algorithm that reduces jitter with support from an NDK femtosecond oscillator that also works to lower distortion.
For the DC Elite, I tried a combination of premium and budget IEMs, as well as a couple of over-ear headphones. This gave me a well-rounded sonic picture of what the Elite can handle, and what its main profile is. Usually, you can expect iBasso products to carry a neutral, well-balanced tuning, and for the DC Elite that is mostly the case. Everything that comes through the Elite has a natural and convincing timbre that presents your tracks with realism. It’s a reference quality that isn’t as cold or as clinical as other portable DAC/Amps with similar tuning though. The Elite unveils its frequency response to achieve very cutting details that are naturally lush and energetic.
While the output is smooth, there are small intricacies in the midrange that connect more to the surface of the sound signature. This gives off the impression of a snappier and precise tone while featuring rounded edges that help make the sound more fun to digest. It fills in blank spaces with extended transparency while maintaining separation in the soundstage. This was one of my favorite aspects of the DC Elite, and I would highly recommend testing this with over-ear headphones using the balanced 4.4mm plug.
I used the Meze 109 Pro and Sennheiser HD 660S2 with the Elite, and it gave them an immersive, holographic presentation that fully engulfed my head in sound. Even IEMs like the Empire Ears Odin had an impressive soundstage and spatial imaging presentation that was comparable to over-ear headphones, especially with classical music. It felt like each sound had more of a specific origin, rather than a forward and elevated stereo field. Budget IEMs aren’t as likely to get this type of response through the Elite, like the Queen of Audio Aviation that I paired it with, but you still get a full and engaging spatial presentation that’s wide and fulfilling.
Almost everything about the DC Elite makes you think you’re listening to a high-class desktop amp or a DAP. The performance and presentation are unlike anything you’re going to get with any other dongle, with its excellent precision and high-grade construction. Its $449 price point starts to make a lot more sense this way, and I think it’s worth it if you want the best dongle on the market.
The iBasso DC-Elite is available at Audio46.