I remember when your music player and your smartphone use to be separate devices. Those were some heavy pockets in high school. My flip phone and iPod touch would take up a lot of my personal space, along with my headphones, wallet, pens, etc. Looking back on those days, discovering new music, and studying to become an audio engineer, I really wish I had a DAP. I know I couldn’t have afforded one, but I was still too exposed to mp3s and the beginning of low kbps streaming. Now there are more DAPs then ever, with companies like IBasso specializing in creating portable high-fidelity listening. Right now, I’m testing out the DX220, one of IBasso’s leading models, and I’m here to tell you all about it.
What You Get
- DX220 player
- Type-C cable
- Burn-in cable
- Coaxial cable
- Leather Case
- Screen protectors
- Quick start guide
- Warranty card
Look and Feel
My first impression of the DX220 was how straightforward the layout of the device was. The 5.0-inch screen seemed like the ideal size for this device, and the actual display ate up most of it, leaving smaller bezel sizes. The chassis appeared heavy-duty styled without being too obtuse. The rectangular shaping felt natural in the hand when operating the DX220, with the backplate featuring a sleek black finish and IBasso insignia. Be careful how you set down the device though, as rough surfaces could lead to scratching. The volume dial lives on the top right-hand side of the device and is simple to operate. Toward the bottom of the DX220, you’ll find a replaceable amplifier clearly distinguished by indents and screws.
The DX220 has a lot of major components that make up its complex system. In terms of outputs, this device features a 3.5mm line out and headphone jack, as well as a 2.5mm balanced out. These are mainly a part of the standard AMP 1 MKII, that can be replaced by a number of amp cards specially designed for the DX series. On the left side, you’ll see a slot for micro SD chips, where you can hold up to 2 TB of data. The right side has your volume dial and three playback buttons, play/pause, rewind, and skip track.
Underneath the hood of the DX220 is an 8 core CPU, with 4GB of RAM, and 64 GB of ROM. The RAM is a serious upgrade from IBasso’s last iteration of this model, the DX200 which only ran 2G. The Panasonic polymer capacitors do an integral job of lowering the resistance of the power supply for more optimal performance. One of the more immediately notable components is the three-step gain settings, which make use of different monitoring systems. For instance, using a lower gain setting dramatically reduces the noise floor, which is more optimal for high sensitivity outputs. Other materials include five femtosecond oscillators and a coaxial output.
As previously mentioned this is a full femtosecond audio system, which makes the DX220 a more useful DAC. IBasso implements the best DAC chipset with the DX220, using dual ESS Sabre ES9028 Pro digital to analog converters. It supports PCM up to 32bit/348kHz with powerful decoding capability.
Depending on which modes you’re using will better determine how much playtime you’ll get out of the DX220. This 4400 mAh battery can give up to 9 hours of playback time, which is on the shorter side compared to other DAPs even well below this price range.
If you’re familiar with Android OS then some of the settings and interface won’t surprise you. While not operating under the latest Android updates, it should be sufficient enough for a DAP. This version of Android is 8.1 Mango, reworked to include third-party apps such as Tidal. If you’re not using third-party apps, most of your listening will be on the Mango audio player app. Using Mango will also extend battery life rather than using other applications. You can take your music from micro SD and play it in Mango with an easy to use interface that shouldn’t stumble even the most novice of smartphone users.
One of the leading features for me is the included equalizer that Mango offers. Go into the settings, and you can choose between two modes of EQ, graphic and parametric. The parametric lets you adjust 6 different nodes controlling a selection of bands, while the parametric adjusts the gain in 10 different frequency ranges, each set having a selection of genre-related presets.
The DX220 is touted as a reference system, which could prove quite useful when compared to other DACs around this price range. Even with the lowered noise floor, the amount of separation and spatial imaging on this device is quite accurate. Spacious sounding headphones like the Ultrasone Edition 8 will play well here, as the excellent layering seems to go into even more depth, reaching well into the back of your head. Open-back headphones are even more perfect for this device, such as on the SIVGA Phoenix where the almost holographic stage becomes even wider of a sphere. I even tried IBasso’s own IT04, where the great width of the IEMs is even more expansive and at the same time pinned down to its direct pan positioning.
In my headphones selection, I noticed a considerable amount of lift from each set in the bass performances. The Edition 8 features some smooth textures that are brought to a fuller, more dynamic timbre when listening on the DX220. The same can be said about the IT04, which features a decent amount of punch in certain areas like kicks and bass synths. I felt like each bass note was clear and could be properly analyzed when listening.
Separation comes into play a lot better here, as mid-range on the DX220 provides excellent clarity and sufficient headroom to boot. Vocals have an ample amount of room to play around in, and in tracks that feature a to of dynamic range, can really leave you with a ton of mid-range and upper-mid details.
I like the high-end response quite a bit, even if they appear more delicate at times. Especially on the Edition 8, where high-frequency bands have a misty-like image, become more controlled while still keeping their detailed aura. The IT04 also features some cleaner response too, but with amp combos, I could see the highs getting a tad harsher. Just something to look out for in an otherwise solid timbre.
With it’s greater soundstage extension, smooth UI, and excellent DAC, the IBasso DX220 is one of the best portable audio players around. At $979 you might be spending a pretty penny for it, but it’ll be a valuable purchase for sure. IBasso proves why DAPs are their specialty.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Sound quality, interface, DAC
Cons: Battery life
The IBasso DX220 is available at Audio 46.
MAJORHIFI may get a commission from retail offers.