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IBasso Portable DAC DC01 Review | Hifigo

IBasso Portable DAC DC01 Review | Hifigo

That smartphones offer easy and practical access to content is out of the question; that they do it with the best quality is not. That’s why a rising number of companies are creating portable (I’d say mobile) DACs one can tie up to smartphones, tablets, and notebooks. The iBasso DAC is one such product, carrying good DAC and amplifier chips in a sleek package that’s barely bigger than a thumb. 


IBasso is a Chinese brand that is known for its digital audio players (DAPs). iBasso has released the DC01 which is a Hi-Res balanced DAC cable adapter several months before, and their DC02 is coming on the success of DC01 and will release to ship at mid of August. We would like to offer you summary information and reviews of DC01 first in this article and soon come with DC 02 review. 


Unboxing & Accessories


The DC01 balanced DAC cable adapter comes in a simple white package which sports PCM 32/384 logo, DSD 256x logo, Hi-Res logo, an image of the DC01 and short description of the DC01. There are specifications at the back of the package. Inside the package, there are the DC01, USB-C to USB-A converter and user manual.

Specs

DAC chipset: AK4493
THD+N: <0.001%(32ohm load, 1.2Vrms)
Output voltage: 1.9V(32ohm load)
Output power: 113mW@32ohm
Frequency response: 20Hz-40kHz±5dB
PCM: up to 32bit/384kHz
DSD: Native DSD up to 256x
Weight: 11g
Length:120mm

Main features

A new generation AKM4493 Premium 32-bit Stereo DAC with VELVET SOUNDTM technology in the system settings.
Support of PCM up to 32bit/384kHz.
Support of Native DSD up to and including 256x.
True balanced amplifier with 2.5mm balanced output port.
Works as a USB-DAC for Android smartphones & tablets, Mac, Windows &Linux computers.
USB C connector for better compatibility with Android smartphones & tablets.
Dual ultra-low noise LDOs to ensure a high-performance audio.
8-wire braided audiophile cable.

Design and Functionality

DC01 main aluminum housing, kind of bulbous in shape, is about 38mm long, very lightweight, and hosts the 2.5mm balanced headphone jack, AK4493EQ DAC, dual ultra-low noise LDO voltage regulators, a blue led (to indicate the presence of power), and the rest of the circuit. A matching aluminum housing USB-C connector plug is attached with a short 8-wire braided cable, the same premium hybrid cable (4 pure copper and 4 SPC conductors) iBasso uses with some of their IEMs.
This interconnect cable will carry only a digital signal from USB-C connector to the DAC, but since we have multiple conductors, it allows to separate power, ground, and data signals, keeping them apart and isolated. Overall, this pigtail design looks very nice, especially when used with matching iBasso IEM cables. The total length of this pigtail adapter is about 120mm, and the total weight is about 10g.


Along with AK4493EQ, the spec mentions output voltage of 1.9V and output power of 113mW @ 32ohm load. Also, considering USB-C connection, it’s designed for use with Android phones/tablets, and with included USB-C to USB-A adaptor you can also connect it to your PC/laptop to use as an external USB DAC soundcard. With Win10 there is no need to install any additional drivers (confirmed on my Win10Pro laptop), but if you have an older version of Windows, iBasso has drivers for that.


With a smartphone, assuming you have the latest one with USB-C plug, you need to connect DC01 directly and it should be recognized right away. I was using Neutron app for playback and had no issues with my Verizon Galaxy S9. Since there is no built-in battery, DC01 will be draining extra from the phone, but it wasn’t too bad. I noticed on my Galaxy S9 while using Neutron with WiFi/BT on, the drain was about 5% per hour when playing FLACs. With DC01 attached, under the same test conditions, it went up to 9%.


Unfortunately, due to smartphone variations in hw and Android sw, there could be an issue related to inconsistency with max volume. To resolve this problem, iBasso released free UAC volume control app which could be downloaded from Google Play. It starts up every time DC01 is attached to the phone, allowing you to control the volume in 64 hw steps which help to reduce the noise floor due to a finer volume adjustment within audio apps.


Sound Analysis


Lows


The DC01 has good sub-bass quantity with great extension The sub-bass reproduction provides an agile rumble. The bass decay is quick which contributes to a high engagement level. The bass texture is rendered with moderate smoothness. The mid-bass has an effective amount of body and the slam is delivered in a punchy manner. Each bass note is articulated with an impactful and bodied hit.


Mids


The midrange is expressed musically with the body. The vocals reproduction has good details retrieval and emotions are conveyed well. The lower midrange has a moderate amount of body and male vocals are expressed with presence. The upper midrange is elevated with a boost and female vocals are presented smoothly with a high intimacy level. There is an engaging vocals performance.


Highs


The treble is extended well and there is a smooth presentation with the body. The crisp has good definition and there is an apt amount of sparkle to liven up the top end. The treble expression is controlled and there is an airy feeling. Details are presented well with ease. The treble has a nice balance.


Soundstage


The DC01 has a natural soundstage expansion and there is a spacious presentation. The width magnitude is good. The depth is not closed in with sufficient space rendered. The positioning of vocals and instruments is accurate.


Comparison with an Entry-level audio player

Entry-level audio player iBasso DC01
DAC: ES9218P/ES9018Q2C (Usually used on smartphones) DAC: AS4990EQ (Desktop level)
Output: <80mW@32ohm Output: 113mW @32ohm
No USB soundcard feature Able to work as a USB soundcard
No balanced output 2.5mm true balanced output
THD+N: >0.004% THD+N: <0.001% (32ohm load, 1.2Vrms)
PCM: 32Bit/384kHz PCM: 32Bit/384kHz
DSD: DSD64, DSD128 DSD: Native DSD64, DSD128, DSD256
No online streaming With smartphones, able to play online music 


Conclusion

 

If you bring this little guy with you to work almost daily , you will find it to be very convenient as well as being able to improve the sound quality of your smartphone, especially soundstage expansion and sound dynamics.


The convenience comes from DC01 becoming a relatively small extension to  IEM cables. The sound improvement comes from a high-res AK4493EQ DAC and a true balanced output design. Plus, with 2.5mm headphone jack, you don’t have to bring extra 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapters and can use your balanced 2.5mm cables connected directly. And you get the same benefits using DC01 with your laptop. For $66 this is a no-brainer.


Operation instructions


The DC01 can be plug-and-play on Android Smartphones and tablets with Android5.1 and above, without installing drivers or third-party APPs(due to the Android device’s system or hardware limitation, there may be a low compatibility issue with some smartphones or tables). On some Android devices, it may be necessary to manually turn on the OTG function in the system settings.
The DC01 uses a standard UAC 2.0 sound card chipset for plug-and-play on Mac and Win10 computers. For WinXP, Win7 and Win8 system, please download the driver.
There is no built-in battery so the DC01 receives its power through the USB interface from the master device. The actual power consumption is related to the operation and the device system. Because DC01 has an audiophile DAC chip it is normal for the DC01 to get warm during use.
*So far, we found that the DC01 has compatibility issues with the Samsung S9 and S10 smartphones. It works flawlessly with other Android smartphones.
*The DC01 can be used with the UAC volume control APP. With our APP, you can use our 64-step hardware volume control.   

 

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