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IBASSO Portable Player DX220 review | Hifigo

IBASSO Portable Player DX220 review | Hifigo

IBasso has been in the market for numerous years now, with players, DACs and more recently, earphones. You know, if iBasso hasn’t released their new flagship for half a year or even a year, nothing would have happened. DX200 is still one of the leaders of the “under 1000$” segment, but the company has decided to be modern and has presented a new model – iBasso DX220. However, despite the fact that the name change is “slight”, the difference is not at all minor.

Packaging

The packaging on the DX220 is pretty much the DX200 unboxing experience in a different color. That means it is awesome, possibly one of the nicest retail boxes for DAPs in the market today.
It is intricate, well designed and well packaged. The outer box sits vertical, resembling almost a desktop PC in some ways. It slides open upwards revealing the DX200 attached to a design board that you can easily lift out. Underneath, you have a carefully arranged quantity of fitted cardboard boxes containing manuals, accessories and a brand new tanned leather case.

Accessories

Accessories for the DX220 include a quick start guide and warranty card as well as iBasso’s standard all new and very flash looking burn-in cable and 3.5mm to coaxial converter cable. You also get a nylon-jacketed USB-C to USB-A data/charging cable and some thin-film screen protectors for the front screen and back panel protection.
iBasso usually recommends using the burn-in cable for 100-200 hours to ensure the DX220 is operating at optimal levels. This has been their standard advice since the DX90. It is not mandatory so if you are not a believer go right ahead and start using the DX220 out of the box. If you notice any changes pop a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Design

Starting with exterior dimensions, DX220 is 126mm x 70.5mm x 18.7mm, very close to DX200 128.5mm x 69mm x 19.5mm, plus both weight the same 240g. Up close you can’t miss the new big 5” 1080p Sharp full-screen display with 1080×1920 resolution, while the original DX200 has 4.2” display with 768×1280 resolution. The new display is not just bigger and sharper, but the colors are richer and deeper. Its 2.5D Corning glass panel covers the whole front of the DAP, all you see is a thin bezel of beveled chassis edges.

Since DX220 has a modular design like DX200 and amp cards are backward/forward compatible, the module is still at the bottom behind the glass with edges seamlessly integrated with the main chassis. A screw on each side secures the amp module. The rest of the ports and controls around the DAP are similar to DX200. On the left, you will find a spring-loaded micro-SD card opening, on the top, there is SPDIF port shared between COAX and Optical outputs. Next, to SPDIF port, you will find USB-C charge/data port, and Power button (for the screen on/off with a short press and power on/off with a long press) is in the upper right corner, flush with chassis.


On the right side, you no longer will see a guard bar over the volume wheel. Design is cleaner now with a solid one-piece chassis and nothing else attached in the upper right corner. Volume wheel doesn’t stick out too far, has a diamond cut along the side for easy one-finger rolling, and has a precise tactile response with soft click feedback. Below it, you have playback control buttons, all-metal, the same size, flush with a chassis, with Play/Pause in the middle and Skip on the sides. It looks and feels nice in your hand, but I still prefer and recommend keeping DX220 in a leather case to enhance the grip.

 

Touch

The Touchscreen will do everything you need the DX220 to do outside of initiating volume control, power on/off and LCD on/off. Unlike the HiBy R6 or Cayin N5ii/N8, you cannot use the screen to increase or decrease volume control. The rotary dial will initiate and control all volume.
Aside from that, you do have capacitive multi-gesture support including pinch and zoom and various apps access to enhance keyboard support such as SwiftKey which I much prefer to the stock version.
Unlike the PAW Gold Touch, you cannot double-tap from the screen off option so you have to do that one via the power button to the right side.

 

Memory

The DX220 has 64GB of onboard memory with the files and system taking up a fairly hefty 8.8GB leaving you with approximately 55.2GB of space to fill up with apps and audio files. That is the same level of onboard memory as the DX200 so no change there.
Also unchanged is the single open microSD slot on the left panel which I prefer to the pin trays of FiiO and HiBy. No need to bring a small pin to open it up.
The DX2220 will support SDXC and SDHC cards. The official rating of how much memory the slot can handle could push beyond 512GB right up to the new 1TB cards and beyond. This is not a hard ceiling in terms of memory capacity.
Personally, I cannot test that, I tend to keep 64GB size cards only. I tend to find the lifespan of micro SD cards to vary and 64Gb is a more acceptable loss than 500GB if they decide to die. 

EQ

DX220 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, the 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 DX220 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.




Parametric EQ (PEQ)

  • Includes 6 custom preset settings.
  • When enabled, the 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, bandpass 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.

Tuning

As for the tonality or tuning the DX150/AMP 6 pairing has more low-end body, a richer instrumental timbre and a slightly musical tilt that I tend to associate with AK4490EQ DAC chip implementations.
The DX220/AMP1 MK2 is cleaner, more reference sounding with a black background and far more headroom also. You can hear that treble articulation stretch up and out far more than the DX150/AMP6 which tends to just roll off in favor of a smoother more relaxed sound.
There is really no less depth on the DX220 combo staging when testing the Solaris and IT04 either. Rather the DX220/AMP1 MKII pairing sounds much tighter, better defined and more spacious sounding than the DX150’s low-end.


That theme carries right into the midrange performance with these two monitors. Imaging cues are far easier to detect, the dynamic range sounds more convincing and like the DX200 comparison leaves the DX150 sounding a little vaguer and imprecise.
The level of resolution and degree of superior instrumental separation at times can be stark when comparing these two. Sure, you lose a little bass body but the accuracy and perceptible level of nuanced detail from that black background make the DX220/AMP1 MK2 combo just so much more engaging to my ears.

 

Comparision


DX220 vs Hiby R6 Pro - I hear more difference here with DX220 having a wider soundstage, slightly more expanded vertical dynamics, and improved layering between the sounds, not by a big margin, but noticeable enough.  Tonality is similar when compared to amp8, but amp1ii makes it a little brighter and more revealing.  Also, R6Pro bass hits a little harder.

DX200 Vs DX220 - The additional 4GB of the DX220 is not about making the DX220 faster than the DX200 with both on their latest firmware. Both these DAP’s CPUs are the same as are their respective clock rates. It is however about making it more stable when the tasks and apps rack up and coping with that new 5″ screen.

With the addition of a 5″ 1080p IPS panel, which is more demanding than the older 4.2″ 720p panel of the DX200, the GUI of the DX220 holds up extremely well. It should be lower, it is not and that is very satisfying. The rest of the points score differences are simply too marginal to cast any conclusive pointers as to which delivers better performance.

You could debate that the lower CPU/RAM score might point to some additional demands the DX220 platform is putting on them compared to the DX200. Certainly, the DX220 has a few more features up its sleeve such as bit-perfect playback and native MQA decoding capability not to mention the 5″ screen. However, the overall gap is too small to make a conclusive statement without accounting for typical margins of error in these tests.

DX220 vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT – similar soundstage expansion, dynamics. and layering.  Again, tonality is the main difference in sound here with LPGT being a little brighter, more reference, while DX220 is smoother and more natural.  Also, DX220 adds a little more weight in the sub-bass.  DX220 w/amp8 will add more body to the sound.
DX220 vs Sony WM1Z – another comparison with a very similar performance in soundstage expansion, dynamics, layering, and even tonality.  1Z is just a touch brighter in upper mids with a crisper treble when compared to DX220 w/amp8, but with a stock amp1ii, they sound closer, though 1Z still has a deeper low-end impact.

 

Dimensions comparison - We have added the dimensions and weight to our ever-growing DAP table below. As you can see it does differ slightly to the original DX200 being slightly shorter, wider and not as tall either. The weight is unchanged at 240g.
Height Width Depth Weight
Cayin N6ii 121mm 70mm 21mm 290g
Lotoo PAW Gold Touch 119mm 68.6mm 21mm 311g
HiBy R6 SS 116mm 66mm 15.5mm 275g
HiBy R6 Pro SS 119.8mm 66.96mm 15.7mm 285g
HiBy R6 Al 116mm 66mm 15mm 190g
FiiO X7 Mark 1 130mm 64mm 16.6mm 220g
FiiO X7 Mark II 128.7mm 67.2mm 15.5mm 210g
Opus#3 117mm 74mm 18mm 220g
iBasso DX150 128.5mm 69mm 19.5mm 245g
iBasso DX200 128.5mm 69mm 19.5mm 240g
iBasso DX220 126mm 70.5mm 18.7mm 240g
The DX220 is still lighter than the likes of the R6 Pro stainless steel and also lighter than the DX150. On a day to day handling it is unlikely you would really notice the size differences over the original, however, the smoother ledge milling work and the lighter weight is noticeable. The longer screen also brings a lot of the repetitive functions on the OS closer to your thumb making it a bit easier to operate the DX220 from one hand.

Conclusion

Finishing a playlist with a premium DAP is always like playing with a double-sided knife. On one side, it’s nice to hear the songs in their most refined state. But on the other side, it’s kind of sad to hit STOP and take the headphones off. This rings true for all of the top-of-the-line DAPs, be it iBasso, Astell&Kern, Sony, Lotoo, or Questyle. When the music stops playing on a really good DAP, your brain is still in that semi-euphoric zone processing what you just heard. It is no different with the DX220. I can say with confidence that they hit the mark with this one.

To wrap it up we have a DAP that punches way above its weight, that sounds mature, melodic, detailed and produces absolute black when necessary. Sonically it sounds as good as some DAPs that cost 3x the price. The screen is absolutely gorgeous, responsive, and is made of Gorilla Glass.
The chassis is comfortable and well balanced. It handles everything from pop, rock, heavy metal, country, and electronica with the ease of a professional boxer toying with a 5yr old. Rock-solid.
The player was a hit at the Axpona show and there were a lot of people buzzing about it. Great sound, attractive UI, wireless/Bluetooth/streaming capability, replaceable AMP modules, frequent updates and only $999 USD? I can’t imagine this be anything but a home run for iBasso and for the everyday consumer. The sound is comparable to the SP1000 and WM1Z. Frankly, I can’t see anyone of these being better than the other, but with such a low price point, the DX220 is able to bring high-resolution audio with the ability to hear DSD512 music to the masses. If you get a chance to hear it at your local audio shop, definitely give it a chance. It might surprise you…

 

DX220 Technical Specifications

  • OS: Android
  • DAC: Dual ES9028Pro
  • Output Ports: 2.5BAL, 3.5PO, 3.5LO, SPDIF
  • Screen: 5.0inch 1080P Full Screen 455 ppi + Gorilla Glass + Nano-hydrophobic
  • CPU: Octa Core
  • USB-DAC: XMOS
  • Bluetooth: V5 Support LDAC, aptX
  • USB Port: USB Type-C (Both data transfer and charging)
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4Ghz/5Ghz)
  • Memory: 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, 1 microSD(TF) slot
  • Battery: 4400mAh, 3.8V (Supports QC3.0 and PD2.0)
  • Dimensions: 126mm * 70.5mm * 18.7mm
  • Weight: 240g
  • 2.5mm Balanced Output
  • Output Voltage: 6.2Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10HZ-45KHZ+/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 125dB
  • THD+N: -0.00018% (no load, 3Vrms)
  • -0.0002% (32Ω load, 3Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -119dB
  • 3.5mm Single Ended Output
  • Output Voltage: 3.1Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10HZ-45KHZ+/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 123dB
  • THD+N: -0.00031% (no load, 1.8Vrms)
  • -0.00035% (32Ω load, 1.8Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -117dB
  • Line out
  • Output Voltage: 3.0Vrms
  • Frequency response: 10HZ-45KHZ+/-0.3dB
  • S/N: 122dB
  • THD+N: -0.00035%, -107dB (no load, 1.8Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -116dB

 

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