iBasso DX200 Review – Minutiae & Veritas

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Pros – 

Immense driving power, Terrific resolution, Spacious soundstage, Solid build, Swappable AMP modules

Cons – 

Mediocre UI responsiveness, Sluggish from wake, Single micro-sd slot, Limited BT implementation

Verdict – 

The DX200 is an incredibly technical source with great hardware and versatility set to a fast user interface.


Introduction –

While companies like Fiio continue to drive huge audiences with their value orientated products, iBasso instead aim to deliver more premium performance at a more premium, but still logically justifiable price point. The DX200 exemplifies this as their current flagship DAP released to commemorate the company’s 10 year anniversary. Though not cheap, it was a device truly designed to compete with the top players on the market. It’s a spec behemoth with dual ESS Saber DACs, swappable AMP modules that all offer huge power output and an 8-core CPU powering a pixel-dense display. At $900 USD, the DX200 is clearly more expensive than flagships from Fiio and Hiby, however, it does offer both greater specification and real-world performance advantages over these models. I spent almost 6 months with the DX200 to provide a comprehensive long-term review. You can read more about the DX200 and AMP modules here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank iBasso very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the DX200 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the DAP free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Accessories –

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iBasso provides quite an unboxing experience for the DX200, demonstrating its position as their flagship product. Sliding open the outer hard box reveals the DX200 itself, showcased on a textured plate.

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Underneath are labelled boxes containing the accessories, a leather case, papers, USB-C and burn-in cables in addition to a screwdriver to swap AMP modules. It’s a comprehensive yet practical unboxing experience that feels sophisticated rather than gratuitous.

 

Design –

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The DX200 is a substantial player with a distinctly utilitarian aesthetic. It isn’t elegantly sculpted like a modern smartphone rather employing strong angles, exposed hex screws and a bold two-tone black/gunmetal colour scheme to achieve a rugged aesthetic. This is reaffirmed by its weight and size, being similar in height and depth to Fiio’s X7, but noticeably wider making it better suited towards users with larger hands. Weighing in at 240g, it‘s also one of the heavier DAPs on the market though it isn’t unwieldy like Sony’s WM1Z that tips the scales just below half a kilogram.

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Regardless, it’s relatively comfortable during single-handed use, achieved through a combination of smooth edges, an offset back panel and fairly thin bezels. With a 4.2” screen size, the DX200 has clearly higher screen real estate than Fiio’s DAPs while remaining reachable corner to corner. It isn’t quite as compact as the Hiby R6, which sports the same screen size, though its additional chin height accommodates swappable amp module that vastly enhance its versatility. They clip into the back of the player and are secured with two flat-head grub screws. Once installed, I experienced reliable audio free of intermittency or cut-out.

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Well placed controls round off a solid ergonomic experience with the index finger falling naturally over the side-mounted media buttons when held. The buttons themselves are clicky and placed distinctly along the elevated side rail. The volume wheel is tactile with just slightly mushy volume intervals, it feels very solid as it’s partially enclosure within the sidebar. On the left side lies a single exposed spring loaded micro-sd card slot though the DAP has 64GB of internal storage. Interestingly, the USB-C charging/data port is located on the top of the DAP in-between the SPDIF output and top mounted power button. The DX200 has a high level of finish and a solid in-hand feel to match, its aggressive texture and reasonable dimensions make it an intuitive daily driver.

 

Software –

Running Android 6.0.1, the DX200 may be a few updates behind modern smartphones, but it’s still running a very capable operating system. It will be immediately familiar to most smartphone users and iBasso have built a very clean ROM free of bloatware and unnecessary applications to make the most of the hardware and battery capacity. Unfortunately, Google Play Services along with the Play Store itself are not present, meaning that user will have to sideload APK’s to install apps that aren’t included from factory (such as Spotify). iBasso promise this functionality in a future update though it is something to consider for current buyers. As of writing, my unit is running version 2.10.215.

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The DX200’s software isn’t as customized as that on the Fiio or Hiby DAPs and more in line with the Echobox Explorer. It has no dedicated audio menu in the settings app or other baked in system-wide audio features. Instead, all audio related functions are controlled through the included Mango music App that is functionally and visually similar to the custom UI that ran on iBasso’s previous DAPs such as the DX80. Of note, settings stick when leaving the app so settings remain in other music apps.

The Music player is fairly straightforward with the first screen offering basic categories and subsequent basic list style layout with small album art thumbnail. The app is swipe-based, allowing users to switch between the menu/song list, now playing screen and two settings screens. Here, the app irks a little as certain screens don’t swipe, instead requiring a button press in the top left corner which really breaks the flow of operation. In all fairness, Fiio’s music app has similar issues.

The settings menus are a far cry away from Hiby’s feature-packed app, that can be easily installed via APK, but will be easily sufficient for the vast majority of users. The first screen offers a basic 10-band EQ with 12dB of adjustment in either direction, a low/high gain toggle and an extensive 7 digital filters that offer fine tuning of the sound. Other functional features such as channel balance, gapless toggle, play mode and USB DAC function are available from this screen too. The last menu screen offers basic rescan function to index the user’s music library; the option to scan either the SD Card, internal storage or both. Users will be sure to appreciate iBasso giving the user the option to selectively rescan as it does take quite some time, about 15 minutes for my 64GB music library.

 

Usability –

The DX200 has beefier internals than the majority of DAPs and optimisations in recent firmware versions produce a clearly faster experience than RK3188 devices such as the X7 MKII and X5 MKIII. As benchmarked below, the DX200 also has very fast internal storage which aids app launch times. As iBasso have sped up animations, navigation speed is increased and its powerful CPU keeps pace well with its accelerated UI. I also didn’t encounter any freezing perhaps on behalf of its 2GB of RAM. I did notice that the DX200’s touchscreen isn’t quite as responsive as some competitors and though the UI runs quickly, it feels like there’s a hair more latency when using the DX200; slightly irksome but hardly experience breaking. Of course, it’s no flagship smartphone and the Hiby R6 feels a little slicker, however, the DX200 is still a consistent performer; fast and mostly reliable during daily use. iBasso also have a dual boot function similar to the Android Fiio DAPs which locks users into the music app and disables other Android functions. I didn’t find this to improve speed by a noticeable degree but it does add an extra hour or so of battery life and music library scan times are faster.

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The DX200 tops this off with respectable battery life. The DAP has an enormous 4400mah battery that promises 8-10hrs of use. With the more powerful AMP5 module that my unit shipped out with, I consistently achieved 9 hours of use with the screen mainly off and on medium brightness playing a mix of lossless, high-res and 320kbps MP3’s. Considering that the DX200 has one of the most powerful Amplifiers I’ve encountered on a DAP in this price range in addition to an 8-Core CPU and larger 4.2” screen, I would posit that the DX200 is generally well optimised and efficient. The DX200 also sports fast internal storage and an SD card slot that will bottleneck quicker cards but is fast enough to deliver a smooth scrolling experience.

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The DX200 has a solid WiFi implementation both in terms of range and speed. Users shouldn’t expect parity with modern smartphones though the DAP easily sufficed for streaming including lossless through Tidal. This is aided by 5GHz support that increases bandwidth and reduces interference at the cost of range (where the standard 2.4GHz band suffices). I also didn’t notice interference when WiFi was active nor EMI when my phone was near, even with sensitive IEMs, a big plus considering that many competing DAPs experience these issues. The DX200 supports Bluetooth 4.0 however it does not support Apt-X, LDAC or any other codecs higher than AAC and SBC. The latest firmware enables the DX200 to function as a BT receiver, though of course, connection will be limited to SBC.

The DX200 has a slightly larger 4.2” screen with a resolution of 1280×768. It’s a little sharper and noticeably more spacious than the panel on the Fiio X7 MKII, the higher resolution probably explains why the DAP is a little slower too. Still, album art and text are sharp and perfectly legible, the IPS panel is also glued directly onto the digitizer providing very wide viewing angles and lower reflectivity when outdoors. Contrast is higher than the Fiio DAPs and maximum brightness is similar, adequate for outdoor use, but not ideal. Though colours aren’t especially vibrant, the screen has a nice white point and it does a great job for its intended uses.

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About Author

Avid writer, passionate photographer and full-time student, Ryan's audio origins and enduring interests lie within all aspects of portable audio. An ongoing desire to bring quality audio to the regular reader underpins his reviewer ethos as he seeks to bring a new perspective on the cutting edge and budget dredge alike.

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