iBasso provided the DX200 free of charge for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.
The DX200 sells for $899, and each AMP module for $200.
iBasso on Amazon
This came as one of those bad-ass surprises which makes you smile in a fiendish grin and fills your guts with butterflies OD’ing on Ecstasy. I did not request the DX200. Well, that’s not true. I did, months ago, but never received a reply. That happens a lot, so I thought nothing of it and moved on.
Recently, I contacted iBasso again, inquiring about their new IT04 IEM. This time I did hear back. However, the 04 was not ready for release, and Paul Hu suggested I review their new IT01 instead. I’ve since done so, and it’s outstanding. He also asked if I wrote about more than just earphones. This is probably when the early stages of the grin began. Walking him through my recent DAP reviews, and my Beta Testing of the Cayin N5ii, hope burbled within. His next reply was pure sex.
“I’m sending you the IT01, as well as the DX200.”
Four days later, this spilled onto my hardwood floor.
Included in Paul’s package is the standard DX200 player with AMP1 module installed. As well as AMP4 and AMP5 in separate boxes. I also found a 2.5mm TRRS-to-4.4mm TRRRS adapter, so I could use my 2.5mm balanced cables with the AMP4 module. This turned out to be extremely useful. Further supplies include a lovely leather case and a burn-in cable, along with the USB Type-C cord and a few other things I never used and so don’t recall off-hand.
It’s a generous assortment of gear I’ve had a great time playing with. Much thanks to iBasso and Paul for the opportunity!
So let’s get into it, shall we?
The iBasso DX200 is built like a tank, fortified and rugged. Beauty is not a virtue iBasso prioritized in this design. They wanted something which would stand up to hard use in practically any environment. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a kind of elegance to it. You know you’re holding a high-end, quality product, especially when you throw on the leather case with that brass snap. An IPS panel is used for the display: 4.2inch, 768×1280. It’s vibrant, smooth, and free of pixilation. Very nice. Each button depresses with a solid feel, and the volume wheel, secured behind part of the chassis, turns with smooth, precise clicks.
I do so fancy a good leather case. I have a bit of a collection growing. This one, though, is by far the most unique.
This is a full and open Android device. You can get access to 3rd party apps, WiFi, Video, and Bluetooth. I can’t speak to how stable any of that is, since I like to use my DAP as a locked-down, dedicated music player. Even as a reviewer, I just can’t be bothered with features that don’t interest me. I’m the worst, I know.
Well, Bluetooth did receive some love from me. I have a few wireless headphones: B&O H9, Klipsch X12 Neckband… and the DX200 gave me decently stable playback. Not flawless, but above average for a boutique Asian company.
Pinky’s a purist. I use all DAPs the same: 16bit and 24bit FLAC, from 44.1Khz to 192Khz, and a few DSD albums, all accessed via Browse by Folder from microSD and Internal Storage. If it handles that well, it’s passed my functionality test. I can’t tell you how well it sorts by Artist or Genre, or how finicky it is as a USB DAC. I just don’t use it like that.
So how does it handle my basic use?
First, the iBasso UI is weird. It’s unlike any other DAP I’ve tried and took a while to familiarize myself with. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you should prepare for a bit of a learning curve. Once you do grasp the UI, it’s still a bit awkward and could do with a serious overhaul. It’s not very intuitive or streamlined. It is functional, though, and full of tools to customize your experience.
You will experience some lag. Most notably when the DAP buffers before playing a new album. This would be awful enough in and of itself, but it gets worse. Many times, after the buffer-period, the song is already a few seconds into playback before you hear anything. Fortunately, this only occurs on the first song in a playlist or album, and everything after that flows smoothly. Indeed, Gapless weaves the songs together without hitch or seam.
In standby/sleep mode, the battery drains so slowly you may be tempted to just keep the DX200 on all the time. That’s how I use Opus DAPs. However, the iBasso develops quirks if I keep it on for two days in a row. It randomly pauses my music while I’m listening, forcing me to hit play again. And this issue can come on with frightful frequency. I don’t need to tell you, a disruption like this is a potential deal-breaker. A music player that doesn’t play music smoothly is pointless.
The way I’ve avoided this game-breaking bug is by rebooting the DX200 every day. It’s on all day and charging all night. In the morning, I just hit Reboot before I begin my listening session at work. This seems to keep things fresh and more or less bug free. Playing my FLAC and DSD files in the iBasso music app becomes a pleasing endeavor.
I recommend you read up on the Empire Ears Phantom and Legend X. The 64Audio A12t is a good idea, but the N8t may be even better for you.
I’m currently reviewing a few IEMs, and among them is the Custom Art FIBAE Massdrop Exclusive. That could also be a serious consideration, if you like LOTs of bass that doesn’t muddy the vocals.
Thank you for excellent review.I was planning to upgrade to Dx 200 for better resolution now I am fully convinced. I currently have dx90 with earsonics velvet. I am happy with the musicality of velvet but am looking for a better transparency sound stage and resolution. I am mainly listening to rock blues, jazz &classical. Which CIEM should I consider? I heard much about 64audio A12T empire Zeus’s xr and unique melody Mason V3. I cannot try them as they are not available in my country.
But that’s not the DX200 case I have. It’s considerably more… orange. Like a version of the standard case that has sideburns and brass knuckles. Looks stylish. I want that too…
That depends on you.
Are you in any way concerned by Vega’s treble? If so, DX200 may push it passed your preference. If you love Vega’s high frequencies, then DX200 should prove a wonderful source for you.
Hi, how do you think the CA Vega would pair with the dx200?:)
It really depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish.
For me, I’m always trying to tame that hot treble and bring up the bass and thicken the mids. Encore can be a too bright and thin sounding with the wrong cable.
I’m a big fan of Effect Audio’s Thor Silver II. It does all that for Encore, while also possessing the exquisite clarity silver cables are known for.
I recently took delivery of a new plusSound cable which hasn’t been released yet. It’s copper based, and very unusual in a lot of ways. This may be my favorite cable for Encore. The treble is completely tamed, and actually quite natural-sounding. The bass is brought up in a big way, and the vocals now have a hint of lushness. And yet, Encore’s transparency and clarity are still class-leading.
If that sounds good to you, keep an eye out for more info on this cable in March.
Thanks for your review.
With Noble Encore, which cable do you use or advise ?
So much exciting audio gear, no one can afford to keep up. One must be highly selective with their purchases. Take your time, read everything, and find the exact right upgrade. Or better yet, be happy with what you already have.
I know. Easier said than done. 😉
Great review Pinky, my credit card just hid itself further down my wallet.