It just so happened that my last reviews on audio-ph were devoted to devices that, due to their cost, did not fall into the “budget and interesting” category, beloved by many. But this time we have prepared just such a gadget for you.
Almost immediately after the anniversary edition of the iBasso DX240 DAP, another device from this wonderful brand, the DC05, arrived at our office, which became a significant update to the line of "audio dongle", compact DAC/ amplifiers.
We have already talked about DC01, DC02 and last year's hit - DC03. And today we have a "five-star" newcomer, who follows in the footsteps of the "two" and "three" because it has a standard 3.5 mm stereo output on board. I think that in the near future we should also expect a similar device from iBasso, but with a balanced 4.4 mm output, which will continue the DC01 and DC04 models. But that's just my guess for now.
The main circuitry difference between generations lies in the change of the main components, DAC chips. Instead of 4493EQ from Asahi Kasei Microdevices (used in DC01 and DC02) and CS43131 Cirrus Logic (DC03 and DC04), two Saber ES9219Cs are used inside DC05. How this affected the voice of the "five", I will tell in detail in this review.
Let's go ahead immediately - following the wonderful melody coming from iBasso DC05!
Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)
Dual ES9219C DAC chips
Self-developed Quad DAC+ Technology
Time Domain Jitter Eliminator
Hyper Stream III architecture
MQA 16X Decoding
Supports 32-Bit/384kHz PCM decoding
Supports native DSD256 decoding
Output voltage: 2V RMS (300Ω load), 1.73Vrms (32Ω load)
Output power: 140mW@16Ω, 93mW@32Ω
Frequency Response: 20 Hz-40 kHz
Dynamic range: 121dB
Output Impedance: <0.5Ω
Appearance and kit
The device is packed modestly, but tastefully. Through the transparent plastic of the box, the DC05 itself peeps out, and all the necessary information is placed on the cardboard tab around it: the brand logo, a message about the support of the MQA format, the model name and the "profession" - Hi-Res DAC Cable Adapter. Detailed specifications are listed on the back.
Inside, in addition to DC05, we find a USB adapter from type-C to type-A for connecting the device to a PC or laptop.
The appearance of the DC05 retains the retro motives already familiar to us from its predecessors. For seasoned fans of good sound, it will surely remind you of the remote control for Walkman CD players from the 90s. At the same time, the design of the “five” cannot be called outdated: conciseness and elegance are served here in one bottle.
The newcomer is available in both green and black. We have, as you probably already saw in the photos, the second color option.
The metal case has very modest (120 x 15 x 9 mm) dimensions, and weighs only 9 grams. But the inscription on the outside again reminds of the device's extraordinary abilities: 32bit/384kHz DSD256x.
Not without the obligatory status of the golden Hi-Res Audio sticker.
On one of the ends there is an output for connecting a 3.5 mm TRS connector. In the same place, a little lower, a tiny blue LED signals us that the DC05 is working properly. A short “tail” comes out from the opposite side - a four-wire silver-white pigtail of a cable, consisting of silver-plated copper. It ends with a type-C connector, native to many phones and other mobile units. Well, with the help of the adapter already included in the kit, a connection is made with a laptop or a stationary PC.
Connecting the DC05 to anything is easy enough, but let me once again give you a couple of tips. To correctly adjust the volume on Android, you should download the proprietary iBasso UAC application either from the Google Play Market or the apk file from the manufacturer's website. I recommend adding Hiby Music software as partners to it. Everything is clear, understandable and regulated by default without problems. On the iBasso website, you can also take a special USB driver "DC-series" for ASIO output on Windows devices and activate it in the settings of the foobar2000 program.
Yes, before I forget, I recommend updating the firmware for DC05, which is also posted on ibasso.com. Moreover, this can be done in a matter of minutes, and the instructions for this are attached in the archive with the update file.
The device is powered by a smartphone / tablet battery, but it does not suffer from “gluttony”, so you should not worry about increased battery discharge on your phone. Well, in the case of a PC and a laptop, there is nothing to worry about at all.
Heating, as in the case of DC03, our hero is not strong, so you will not experience any discomfort.
Well, the DC05 has been thoroughly examined by us from all sides, we also figured out the software nuances, now let's move on to sound impressions.
As I mentioned above, the DC05 is based on two SABER ES9219C DAC chips from ESS Technology. The new heart, in addition to the expected impact on the audio signature, added more "athletics" to our hero. Now the output voltage is 2Vrms/300Ω under load), 1.73Vrms (32Ω under load), and the output power is 140mW/16Ω, 93mW/32Ω. Pretty serious parameters for such a baby!
We used: 64 AUDIO A12t, FIR Audio M5 и M4, Vision Ears VE8, VE7 и EVE20, InEar PP8 и ProMission X, iBasso IT07, Softears RSV & Phonon 4400.
With all the Headphones/IEM, the DC05 performed well with no issues with the power and variety of music genres on offer.
Despite its diminutiveness, the "five" gives out a rather adult sound, laying out the palette of sounds cleanly and accurately, in a neutral-melodic manner.
The lower register is delivered extremely accurately and energetically, with good articulation and good depth elaboration. And let the bass not indulge us with tonal diversity, but it is well assembled, accurate and has decent speed characteristics. For an XS size device, this is an amazing result! Midbass development takes not so much quantity as quality, demonstrating a good transfer of textures and vigor. This is a neutral, cheerful and comfortable manner with a good rhythmic basis.
Mids are smooth, bouncy and contrasting, with a commendable transfer of the emotional component of the composition. It is reproduced accurately, melodicly, with a little bit of expression, but without sharp peaks that strain the ear. The vocals impress with their temperament, while the piano and string instruments sound smooth, clean, comfortable and picturesque. This is a melodic and rather detailed manner of sound, presented in a neutral form.
The high-frequency range is slightly accentuated, but at the same time it is served quite comfortably and does not draw too much attention to itself. In this case, the high frequencies add some width, expression and fresh air to the sound. They do not try to impress the listener with refined manners and refined overtones, but at the same time they are transmitted quite cleanly, distinctly, without harshness and obvious simplification.
In general, I would describe this sound as neutral and unusually melodic. At the same time, there are no significant shortcomings that could prevent you from enjoying music in the DC05. In my opinion, this approach to setting up the sound will appeal to many.
In terms of genre preferences, iBasso DC05 is not capricious at all. He is interesting, with his refined emotional "color", plays both instrumental music, jazz, electronics, and rock.
Finally, let's compare the "five" with their brothers in the "audio dongles" line from iBasso. The DC02 sounds a bit similar in the midrange and treble, but has a more rounded, warmer tone in the lower register. The DC03's delivery is a little more dense, picturesque, with flesh-filled audio images and a slightly darkened background, expressed in a light V-shaped manner. Personally, I like the newcomer the DC05 the most. On the one hand, it gravitates towards a neutral manner, on the other hand, it sounds very melodious and exciting. However, this is more a matter of taste, and each of the listed devices has its own interesting style.
The question "how to fit a big sound into a tiny trinket" is the most non-trivial, and its successful practical solution invariably causes me childish amazement. However, in the case of the "five" pleases not only the flawless implementation of this difficult task, but also the evolutionary development of engineering, which is consistently traced in mini-devices created by iBasso.
The DC05 is a rare example of how design engineers put all their energy into pushing the boundaries of audio performance without trying to lure the customer with unnecessary and pointless "cosmetic" changes. "Five" outwardly does not differ in any way from its predecessors, however, when listening, it immediately becomes clear what a great and painstaking work has been done.
Needless to say, the rampant development of streaming services (Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, etc.) makes these audio dongles an ideal addition to a smartphone or laptop.
At the time of writing the review, the recommended retail price for the iBasso DC05 was about $69. And this is one of the most affordable options to get your entry ticket to the world of high-quality sound.
Sound, design, size, price.
No (not at this price)