iBASSO DX80 digital audio player
ESTABLISHED in 2006 in Shenzhen, China, iBasso Audio started out producing portable headphone amplifiers and has since expanded its product line to headphone amplifiers with integrated digital-to-analogue converters (DACs) and more recently, digital audio players (DAPs).
The latest iteration of the DX series DAPs is the DX80 reviewed here.
BITS AND PARTS: In what is a crowded DAP market, the DX80 does well to offer a bevy of audiophile friendly features. On the digital side of things, dual Cirrus CS4398 DAC chips provide sample rates of up to 24-bit/192kHz, with native DSD supported up to 128x, fitting most high-resolution needs.
Connectivity-wise, there are mini optical/coax and micro USB inputs, a 3.5mm headphone jack and separate line out jack. These options provide flexibility with how you decide to use the DX80 – whether as a portable DAP, DAC/amp or standalone DAC.
We also have dual Micro SD card slots, with a total storage size of up to 2TB a possibility. There is no onboard storage for audio files, however, so a micro SD card is mandatory, unless you’re using it as a DAC connected to a PC or Mac. When not connected to a computer or USB power source, the onboard battery is good for up to 13 hours of play time.
The DX80 runs iBasso Audio’s proprietary software with an IPS touchscreen interface, can play most popular lossless digital audio formats and weighs in at 178g. This unit was updated to the V1.4.2 firmware released on April 30, 2016.
The onboard audio player interface is a functional affair and designed for anyone familiar with swiping left and right on their touch screens. The left most screen gives you access to your music categories, directories and Micro SD cards, centre screen is the music player and the right most screen provides a number of settings that are available for the DAP.
I’m not the biggest fan of the user interface but I have been spoiled by the already excellent music players available on smartphones – suffice to say, the UI here is utilitarian and has room for improvement. The built-in playlist support is much appreciated but clunky in practice. You will definitely want to create your .m3u playlists on a computer and transfer them over, but bear in mind that this is an involved process, even with the guides that you can find on the internet.
IN CONCERT: The amplifier section was able to drive all the headphones and IEMs I threw at it, easily handling the Vsonic VC1000 and FLC Technology FLC8S in-ear monitors (IEM). With the high-gain setting, there are no problems driving the Oppo PM-3 and Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro headphones either, although this requires turning the digital volume dial up to 4 o’clock for a decent loudness level. I find that they can just about drive the Audeze LCD 3 but these headphones do need dedicated desktop setups to sound at their best.
So how does it sound? The presentation is balanced to warm – a touch of emphasis in bass, neutral mids and a roll off in treble. It’s a polite sound, yet doesn’t skimp on the details and nuances that might be lost due to the reduced treble emphasis.
In the opening of Roy Hargrove’s toe tapping Strasbourg / St. Denis, you hear the swish of the bassist’s hand moving across his double bass’ neck, as he twangs the intro line. As the song progresses, the hi-hats and cymbals come in and are conveyed almost delicately, never overpowering the rest of the instruments. There is no hint of stridence or sibilance in the high frequencies.
With Radiohead’s new single, Burn the Witch, the DX80 effortlessly handles the intricate mix of analogue strings and beat machine beats, conveying a large, spacious sound stage around Thom Yorke’s wails that culminates in a glorious ascent into the closing finish.
The full spectrum of sounds from Marika Hackman’s Drown is more than adequately portrayed – from her deadpan affectation, to the deep electric bass line, low bass drums, eclectic samples and simple, yet clear guitar chords.
APPLAUSE: The DX80 produces a polite and refined sound reminiscent of British hi-fi. iBasso audio has managed to fit all of its audiophile features into a small form factor and at a very competitive price point.
BUT…: The user interface is clunky and doesn’t quite live up to the competition. Treble-heads will need to use the onboard equaliser or look elsewhere.
FINALE: If you’re willing to overlook its cosmetic shortcomings, the iBasso DX80 is a solid portable digital audio player for serious audiophiles. Just remember to factor in the price of a decently sized micro SD card.
Source: Foobar WASAPI/ASIO and Tidal Lossless on Lenovo W520 laptop / Headphones: Audeze LCD 3, Audeze LCD 2, Oppo PM-3 / IEMs: Vsonic VC1000, FLC Technologies FLC8S / Amplifiers & DACs: Audio-gd Precision 1, Audio-gd DAC-19, Alo Audio Pan Am, JDS Labs O2 + ODAC / Loudspeakers: Pioneer SP-FS52, Pioneer SP-BS22
Brando Peter is an IT systems engineer with a passion for music and all things digital. He once shared a home with the legendary and towering Polk Audio SDA SRS 1.2TL speakers, driven by 1000W Carver Silver 9T monoblocks, but these days rocks out mostly on headphones and a modest speaker setup.