iBasso DX300 DAP - Official Thread

This is a thread for discussing iBasso’s latest flagship DAP: the DX300.

The DX300 is a feature-rich DAP coming in at $1,199.00 USD on the iBasso website at the time of writing.

It features:

  • Dedicated FPGA Master audio system controller
  • Quad Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips
  • Accusilicon femtosecond oscillator clocks
  • Dual Batteries - one for the Digital circuitry and one for the Analog circuitry
  • Snapdragon 660 SoC with 6GB RAM
  • 128GB onboard storage space
  • Fully-balanced operation from the DAC through the AMPs
  • Replaceable AMP card for future upgradeability
  • AMP 11 card by default with discrete circuitry with 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced, and 4.4mm balanced outputs
  • 6.5in, Full HD 2340x1080 display
  • Dual OS operation with Mango OS and Android 9.0
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 5G WiFi with 2x2 MIMO antenna
  • USB DAC compatibility across Windows, Mac, smartphones, tablets, and other platforms.
  • QC3.0 & PD2.0 quick charging to fully charge in 2.5h
  • Coaxial output support
  • USB 3.1
2 Likes

I’ve had the DX300 for a few days and I thought I’d write up a quick review of this unit.

Hardware

Despite seeing and reading multiple reviews, all of which mentioned the size, I still didn’t not expect this thing to be as big as it is. It’s BIG. It’s less portable and more transportable. It’s about the same size with a case on it as the Cayin C9 or about the same size but more than twice the thickness as my Pixel 4 XL.

When it comes to audio connectivity, this thing has you covered:

  • Coax output
  • 2.5mm balanced headphone output
  • 3.5mm single-ended headphone output
  • 4.4mm balanced headphone output

All of these connectors felt secure and never felt loose or cheap.

The three push buttons on the device all feel nice and protrude enough to be able to find them easily without looking.

The volume knob, while disappointingly plastic feeling, never seems to skip a step and has a satisfying “click” when pressed.

The screen however is where this device shines most brightly. It is big, bright, brilliantly colored, and easy to look at in both low-light and bright sunlight conditions. Videos, both streamed and locally available, look fantastic on the DX300.

Software

With the built-in dual-OS functionality, it really is rather important to talk about software features separately.

Android 9.0

With a much more recent version of Android than any other DAP on the market (apart from the HiBy R6), the DX300 when booted into Android feels much more like a modern smartphone than it does a DAP. While it doesn’t come with Google Play pre-installed, it’s easy enough to install it through the pre-installed APKPure. Doing so gives access to streaming services such as Spotify, Roon, Tidal, and more. There are a few apps that I’ve run into which do not work on the DX300. Namely, I found that Pandora doesn’t load at all and Hulu will not play any videos and I’m not sure why.

Other than that, it seems to me that the DX300 has pretty close to stock Android functionality. If you’ve used an Android phone in the past, you’ll likely feel right at home with this DAP.

For local file playback, I’ve primarily used the Mango player that it comes with.

While using Android OS, I’ve found that the digital battery drains at approximately twice the rate of the analog battery, which is extremely annoying.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed while using the DX300 in Android mode is that there are occasional sync issues where the audio pipeline is running ahead of the video pipeline, causing the audio track of videos to play slightly before the accompanying video. I’ve found that this can usually be resolved by restarting the device, but it would be really nice to figure out a better solution.

Mango OS

Mango OS seems to me like it’s basically just the Mango player app from Android in a forced full-screen mode, but with significantly better battery performance.

I’m not a big EQ user, but from my limited experience using it with the DX300, the EQ functionality seems to work just as well as the EQ functionality from Roon (my only other point of comparison). It didn’t distort the music in any way, but did consume slightly more battery than with the EQ off.

Sound Quality

This is where the DX300 really shines. Among my Q5S Type C, my FiiO BTR 5, even my AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt, I don’t have a single other portable device that sounds as good as the DX300. Furthermore, the DX300 rivals (and in many ways surpasses) the sound quality of my various desktop setups (a D90/A90, Matrix Mini-i Pro 3, and RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition).

Frankly, to my ears, the DX300 just sounds “right”. In every respect, this device strikes a perfect balance. It has a natural tonality that’s rich and inviting. The tonality across bass, mids, and treble is perfectly balanced - not too much, not too little. The details is perfectly balanced - it’s always there, without them feeling forced, inviting you to discover them when you so choose but never shoving them in front of the music.

Select Comparisons

In order to test various features of the DX300, I’ve opted to perform some select comparisons with other devices I have around.

Q5S Type C

In this round, I’m specifically comparing how these devices sound when used as USB DAC/Amps. The first trick, however, was figuring out how to put the DX300 into USB DAC/Amp mode. I could not get this to work on my Windows 10 laptop, but it worked without a fuss on my (work) Macbook Pro. When it comes to ease of use, the Q5S just works on pretty much every device I’ve used it with, so it’s the clear winner there.

When it comes to sound quality, however, the DX300 is the clear winner. The Q5C is a much more harsh sounding device than the DX300 is, especially in the treble region. The Q5C is also far less detailed, which is particularly noticeable in the bass frequencies. When listening to Howard Shore’s The Uruk-Hai from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack, the differences in bass detail is apparent.

FiiO BTR 5

In this round, I’m looking at how the DX300 performs when used as a Bluetooth DAC/Amp.

Unfortunately, in this mode, there is significant latency problems (I’d guess on the order of 400-500ms) with the DX300, so unless you’re just listening to music for hours at a time, you’ll absolutely notice the latency gap between when your source sends the audio signal and when the DX300 outputs it. This is extremely apparent when watching videos.

Latency issues aside, the DX300 sounds significantly more refined than the BTR5. It makes the BTR5 feel almost muddy in comparison. This is particularly apparent with tracks like Sam Smith’s HIM, where the intro has Lo-Fi-esque background noise which sounds congested on the BTR5, but which sparkles on the DX300.

Topping D90/A90

In this comparison, I’m looking at how the DX300 performs as a full system replacement for the Topping D90/A90 stack. Both the DX300 and the D90/A90 were fed from Roon sourced locally but streamed to the DX300 or to my laptop and then to the D90/A90.

I bought the D90/A90 to be used as detail monsters and they absolutely fulfill that role, but not in nearly as pleasant a fashion as the DX300. The DX300 provides maybe slightly less detail, but I can’t tell if that’s because it’s not there or because it doesn’t shove details in your face like the D90/A90 does. The simple fact is that, to me, the DX300 provides a far better listening experience than the D90/A90 by putting forward a much more natural tonality than the D90/A90 does without any of the unnatural harshness.

RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition

I originally bought the RME ADI-2 primarily for its recording capabilities, but have since fallen in love with its sound, which for my tastes easily eclipses that of every other device I own. That is, until the DX300. The DX300 gives the ADI-2 Pro a strong run for the money.

When it comes to these two devices, the ADI-2 is slightly less detailed than the DX300, but only (as far as I can hear) in the bass frequencies. However, when it comes to detail in the mids and treble, I think the ADI-2 just slightly beats out the DX300. In every other respect, I really can’t tell much of a difference between the ADI-2 and the DX300. They both have great dynamics, fantastic imaging, exceptional soundstage, and are both an absolute joy to listen to.

Conclusions

If it hasn’t been made clear enough by now, I’m in love with how the DX300 sounds, despite its many flaws, and is absolutely (to me) worth every dollar I spent on it.

6 Likes

I’m not sure if anyone from iBasso is on here, but here’s my list of gripes/things I wish they would fix (in software), in no particular order:

  • The weird timing issues that occasionally show up when watching videos
  • Make USB DAC mode use Android’s USB connection switcher instead of the weird button on the Mango player widget, or at the very least make it a system setting from the quick settings menu
  • Make EQ available from the settings app
  • Allow USB DAC mode not to require a driver on Windows
  • Reduce latency when used as a bluetooth receiver
  • Reduce latency when used as a USB DAC
1 Like

Lazy here on the barge and enjoying this synergy :musical_score::om:

2 Likes

Hey all, I’d been looking for an upgrade to my trusty DX160 for some time, and eventually decided on the DX300. It arrived today, so here are the first impressions.

Physical impressions: It’s a chonker. Just to illustrate, it’s my iPhone X stacked twice over and with a larger screen than most smartphones I’ve seen to boot. The weight isn’t so bad though and, from memory, it’s not quite as heavy as the Sony WM1Z that I held a while back. I’ll mostly use the DX300 around the house or store it in my backpack if I’m on the go. Interface is snappy and responsive, a huge jump over any other DAP that I’ve played with. The case it comes with sucks. It brushes up against the wheel, slightly obscures the LED strip at the top, and makes the buttons on the side prone to accidental activation. At least it’s a snug fit unlike some early runs, I guess.

Disclaimer: I do not hear major differences between sources even if I would definitely attest to differences existing. I do not care about burn-in. Your mileage might vary and all that. For reference, this DX300 has the Amp11 MK.II and listening was done off of the 3.5mm jack with my 64 Audio U12t.

Now for the sound impressions. The DX300, to my ears, presents a south of neutral sound that has a pronounced thickness to the bass and midrange regions. It is a more natural, smooth listen; perhaps not “lifelike” but with pleasing timbre and a good sense of authenticity. As a basis of comparison, I will point to its younger brother, the DX160. I hear the DX160 as being generally tilted more toward the treble region for a brighter, leaner presentation. I’ve grown increasingly critical of the quality of said treble; the timbre sounds overly plasticky. By contrast, the DX300 maintains good treble presence, but seems smoother, less scratchy. Bass on the DX300 is also rich and warm, yet maintains respectable nuance. By comparison, the DX160’s bass sounds quite hollow and decays quicker. The juxtaposition between these two DAPs’ respective sound signatures is quite interesting; the DX300 is not what I would’ve wanted if I was hoping for a straight upgrade to the DX160. But I’m not complaining: It’s a pretty big jump for my preferences.

Of course, you’ll want to know about the intangibles. Interestingly, I do hear a slight blunting of transient attack to the DX300’s midrange not unlike my U12t. Decay is also smoother than I would’ve expected (using the default filter) and noticeably less “etched” than what I hear off of the DX160. Textural nuance - maybe transient weight? - has seen a jump accordingly. Again, there is a general sense of the DX300 not sounding much like an iBasso DAP, but certainly not for the worst in my opinion. Indeed, what stands out most to me are the DX300’s dynamics. Not necessarily in sheer dynamic contrast, mind you, but rather in intensity. The DX300 has excellent macrodynamic punch, although I’d hesitate to give a relative assessment as my experience with high-end DAPs is rather limited. Staging on the DX300 is also quite open with considerable depth and layering, easily besting the A&K SP1000M I have on-hand. I think the biggest bust here would be that I can still hear the Andro 2020 hissing slightly off of the DX300. Finicky little green bois, sigh .

Anyhoo, I’m in the honeymoon phase with this thing for now, so we’ll see how long that lasts. At the very least, I can say the DX300’s a pretty sweet DAP as long as you’re okay with sacrificing a substantial amount of pocket real-estate.

3 Likes

One of these arrived today.

Lovely thing. Easy to get into DAC mode, but does have a 30ms audio delay. So no good for PC general use, YouTube etc. Music is fine obviously.

3 Likes

Excellent review @Precogvision.

1 Like