I’ve grown to love the sound of this player using the digital filter “Super Slow Roll-Off”. Everything just seems a bit more analogue, or tube-like, with this filter. So keep in mind, the following impressions were made thusly. Now, the filters are subtle, and therefore most everything I write will apply no matter which setting you prefer. But still, it’s good to understand where I’m coming from.
The iBasso DX150 is warm, organic, and ever so musical. It has a muscle-y quality, full of dynamics and raw energy. IEMs are kicked into head-banging mode the instant you hit play. Bass stands prominent in the tuning, possessed of speed, strong attack, and evil power. It bolsters the mids, creating a meaty weight to vocals and unquestionable authority to guitars. Excellent clarity and detail keep the DX150 from paying for all this “Fun”. Never does it sound muddy or congested. High frequencies have enough presence to sparkle and illuminate, assuring superb articulation in all areas.
The soundstage is spacious, with great width and truly impressive depth. The DX150 renders a thoroughly three-dimensional image, portraying the tangibility of each element. The result is vivid, life-like audio. Texture and micro-detailing come through in abundance, aided by substantial resolving power. The balance is one of my favorites to date. It’s a rockbox, but one with no small measure of technical merit.
Although warmth is a main feature of the tonality, DX150 is not overly smooth. It’s capable of revealing all the blemishes and oddities of the recording. The dynamics are so stout, nothing can hide. Notes have vibrancy, an energy which brings them to singing life. But they are never thin or wispy. Indeed, tremendous body anchors them to the Earth, as robustness exudes from every instrument. All of this leads the DX150 to being profoundly natural-sounding, which in turn makes it one of the most transparent DAPs I own.
The Cayin N5ii ($369, Review HERE): Prior to the DX150, I held the N5ii as my choice for best mid-tier DAP. But iBasso sets a new bar. Of course, you pay extra for this new bar, but not too much. The DX150 is fuller, warmer, and more organic. There is a greater sense of depth and dimensionality. Cayin renders a sharper, and harsher sound, which feels thin and lacking weight in comparison. iBasso has the smoother, more natural notes. The soundstage is nearly the same width, but the DX150 squeezes out a tad more. (With Fast Roll-Off, some of these differences are less noticeable.)
Opus#1S ($399, Review HERE) is very warm, like the DX150. I expected this to be a closer match. It isn’t. The warmth 1S exhibits is accompanied by anemic notes. There’s hollowness behind the façade. DX150 comes off significantly fuller, with rounder, weightier notes. iBasso also portrays greater depth and a hair more width. 1S has a slight artificiality to it, producing subtle sibilance and treble glare. I never observed this before. But in direct comparison, DX150 is more organic and natural, with richer, more complete overtones. (Applying Sharp Roll-Off had less impact on the disparity between these two DAPs.)
For this next comparison, I used tia Fourté and EA Leonidas in balanced. I wanted the absolute clearest and most transparent monitor to mark the changes.
The DX200 ($899, Review HERE): Soundstage is wider and even deeper. Separation is cleaner and more profound. That sense of holographic immersion is taken to a new level. The render is silky smooth, whereas the DX150 sounds rougher. With the DX200, extension, both top and bottom, is superior. Bass in particular has greater control and definition. The 150 has the warmer tone, with the most bid-bass. 200 of course delivers the more detailed and reference-grade audio. Is there a massive difference? No. But it’s not what I’d call subtle, either. Never fear, the DX200 remains a true and proper flagship, in whose wake the DX150 doggedly pursues.