Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ibasso DX100 review

So I purchased the Ibasso DX100 on pre-order and man does it sound good!! It's easily in the top setups I have heard by far. Rivaling many desktop rigs which is saying something. I know the sound will change more over time but I thought I'd give it a review anyway because it is phenomenal! At this point I've probably put around 100 hours or so on it since receiving the unit. As a reference I have owned the Cowon s9 and heard the ipod -> CLAS -> DB2/PB2 setups extensively. I have also heard SR-009s, Orpheus, HD800s and the like. Anyways, onto the actual review.
I tested both some standard 16/44.1 kHz songs ripped using EAC as well as 24/192 kHz songs off of Linn Records and HDTracks and everything in between. ;) I even tried some mp3s. The UI while quirky is highly functional in my opinion though Ibasso does need to fix some items in the next firmware update to make me really happy with this product.
The only things I feel really need to be fixed are not fading in the next song when you change songs in the middle of another one playing and to fix album order and tagging of files. I use mostly .wav for my cd's so there isn't much in the form of tagging for me, however, I still am struggling to get some albums loaded in the proper order. It exhibits behavior similar to the Hifiman products in that it loads the songs based on copy order to the device. I mean seriously WTH, needs to be fixed ASAP.So it's something to take into consideration for future DX100 owners.
Moving on to sound, I've been comfortably using this as my go to portable getting something like 7.5 - 8 hours of battery life which is enough for me. On the go, I've been using the RE0s or modded Sr-60i's with it (I'll post pics on head-fi gallery soon) with it while I home I'm currently using LCD-2 rev. 1s with Moon Audio's Silver Dragon v. 3 (soon to be cabled with Crystal Piccolino :D) It's really a joy to listen and the best I think I've heard either of these. The RE0s were good enough that I'm seriously considering customs. Any suggestions?
The RE0s while it did sound good lacked a lot of depth but the soundstage is getting better day by day. The LCD-2 on the other hand is just indescribable how good this combination sounded. I'm always hesitant to use words like synergize but that's exactly what happened here and I'll try my best to describe the sound.
Overall soundstage was quite good even out of the box, yet the instruments all had a bit of 'harshness' in the sound and lacked decay on the notes. The decay on the notes to me is what gives music that life-like quality through a good source/DAC/amp/headphone. Already this is much improved through the caps just burning in. The soundstage is the best I've ever heard them on LCD-2s and really I think I just ended up with a really good pair of the LCD-2s. The sound after about 100 hours is more organic and life-like to my ears and I'm really enjoying the sound. The width and depth i'm hearing is really quite something. I'd say the overall effect I get from my LCD-2s is they sound like a pair of very good speakers with a bit less on the whole imaging front but stunning nonetheless.
Some recommendations for fellow DX100 owners to try is Susan Wong's 'Someone Like You' and 'Chopin & Lizst' by Annelean Leaneats (Both can be found on Linn Records site in 24/192 kHz). Something I've noticed that I find neat is you can easily tell different concert halls from each other and really get a sense of the depth of the hall with the DX100 -> LCD-2 combination. You can actually really also hear the singer's breath into the mic and things such as fingers moving up and down the frets on a guitar. Definitely adds to the music and quite a neat experience. The next section is going describe the sound as I'm hearing it through the LCD-2s.
The bass was very well extended and very detailed in my opinion. I really enjoyed listening to Hans Zimmer's work to see how the bass sounded. The movie soundtrack for Inception sounded gorgeous. The bass had great impact and the sound was very surround.
The mids on this were very lush and full of micro details that I swear I've never heard before on some cd quality recordings. (To think it gets better :O) I think the sound here can be best described as very open and airy but at the same time highly intimate through the LCD-2s and I can't state enough how much of a joy it is to just listen to the music. I just love how rich and full the mids sound.
Finally, the highs. The highs were sparkly and extended extremely well and on well recorded albums really did just sparkle. There isn't really much else I can say about the treble.
I'm going to have to cut my review short here as I have finals coming up and some homework to finish but once my crystal piccolino's are in and the DX100 has had some more time to burn-in I'll post additional thoughts and add some more to this post. In the meantime, I'm going to get working on some homework and just enjoy my music. :) Pics coming soon as well.


  1. Very impressive.

    How much is the DX100 better than the s9 or iPod? The DX100 is quite expensive. Do you think the price is ok regarding the audio quality, compared to e.g. s9 or iPod?

  2. Hey man the DX100 is miles ahead of the iPod and is substantially better the the s9. Yes it is quite expensive but I feel the price is worth it for the quality you are getting compared to the s9 or iPod. There are more reviews and impressions on head-fi.org

  3. You never really compared them, did you? Because nobody ever compared them.

    Get good headphones that your iPod can drive, i.e. at most 30 Ohm. Put the same music on your DX100 and your iPod (MP3 on iPod and uncompressed with many many KHz on DX100), and make sure the players have the same sound level. Now put on your headphones and ask somebody to randomly plug the phones into one of the players, without telling you, and behind your back.

    I bet you won't be able to tell to which player you are listening.

    Try it!

    1. ipod vs dx100? place your bet man. i'll take it on. :)

    2. Is $100 enough?

      I'm wondering why you didn't simply try it instead of talking big. Everbody says and writes how awesome this player sounds but nobody really tries it. Believing that the DX100 is better than an iPod without doing a fair (i.e. FAIR) comparison is superstitious. And repeating what others are saying is even worse.

      A little less conversation, a little more action, please.

  4. I personally tried out the DX100 recently by inserting by own music versus the one already loaded on the device. Using my Westone 4R, I had to put the volume at almost max. in order to get a decent sound level. I was surprised the sound from the DX100 was not as good as claimed my many people. And I compared it to my Samsung Galaxy 7.7 tablet. Either I did something wrong or there is gross exaggeration on the part of some owners of the DX100.

    1. Regarding the sound level: I suppose you used the 3.5mm output; the 6.3mm output is said to produce more power.

      What about your comparison with the Galaxy 7.7? Did you hear differences? If yes, which?

    2. The DX100 is poowerful enough to blow your ears out even on low gain. It seems something is wrong with the DX100 you tried or how it was connected.

  5. The DX100 has the "software" volume turned down as standard and if you use a different software to the one supplied it will sound very quiet even when you turn the physical volume up with the switch on the side.

    Turn the hardware volume down very low and turn the software volume up to full. Now increase the hardward volume and once you get to 200 you will get to the point where it hurts your ears. the volume goes on up a lot higher but then you will deafen your self.

    I have had the DX100 for several months and it is an extraordinary device. To compare it as alike to any phone or MP3 player means your are either a. deaf. b. just trying to cause a row.

  6. Continued from above.... Perhaps I should have said; to turn the "software" volume up use: Settings > Sound > Volume. You will see a sliding orange bar with the title "Media", use your finger to turn it up full = move it to the right-most point the volume switch on the side has no effect here what-so-ever. This will control all other media than the original one installed.

    Please make sure you turn the volume down using the rocker on the right side. I don't want anyone bursting their ear drums.