iBasso DX220 MAX: Mad Max plays without compromise

Hi friends!


Today we have a significant event in the editorial office - despite the numerous obstacles that have arisen in the world due to covid's hysteria, we still got a new device from iBasso! 


Over the past year, the main DAP from this respected iBasso brand has been the DX220, which we talked about in detail last spring. But time does not stand still, and the company took the next step to the heights of perfect sound, releasing its next flagship - DX220 MAX.


I won’t let the fog in and I’ll say right away that this device fully justifies the received prefix in the name - MAX. It is truly an uncompromising leader in every way. DAP has grown in size and acquired an even more stylish design. However, its main advantage is that it is equipped with two power supply units, consisting of five batteries: the first feeds the CPU and DAC, and the remaining 4 sections provide energy to the amplifier part, working in class “A”. And I must say right away that such a well-thought-out engineering approach gives an excellent result, because an accurate circuit design and proper nutrition are the key to excellent sound.


MAX, like its predecessor, is built on two top-end ESS Saber 9028PRO DAC chips, but unlike the DX200 and DX220 it does not have the ability to modularly replace the amplifier part. But it doesn’t need it, in this instance it's “all-inclusive” to the maximum.



Well, let's already challenge Max to the arena of our Mad (from the love of the perfect sound)!





Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)





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Specifications

DAC chip: Dual ES9028PRO

Body Material: Stainless Steel

OS: Android 8.1 & Mango OS

Output Ports: 4.4mm Line Out, 4.4mm Balanced, 3.5mm Phone, 3.5mm S/PDIF

Screen: IPS 5.0 inch 1080P Sharp full screen with On Cell capacitive touch panel

Corning glass on the tront screen and rear panel

Bit for Bit playback with support up to 32bit/384kHz

Support of Native DSD up to 512x

Support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus quick charge for digital section

XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon USB audio driver, making this an easy to use USB DAC

A Total of 5pcs of Femtosecond league oscillators, with 2 of them being Accusilicon ultra low phase noise Femtosecond oscillators

8-core CPU

Mini optical output and mini coaxial output

4GB LPDDR3

128G internal memory

5G WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0

Support SDXC and SDHC Micro SD cards

Three settings of gain control

Audio Formats Supported: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF and DXD

Support for M3U playlists

4400mAh 3.8V Li-Polymer battery for the digital section, and 4pcs 900mAh Li-polymer battery form the +/-8.4V battery pack for the analog section





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Appearance and kit


The DX220 MAX comes in an exquisite gray box with a black triangle-iBasso logo in the middle. Inside, in addition to MAX DAP, there is a gentlemanly set of audiophiles: protective films on the screen and on the rear panel of the device, a coaxial cable, a nice USB type-C cable, a power adapter for charging the amplifier part with the included plug (in this case, under the "euro" outlet) , cable for burn-in apparatus, adapter 4.4 mm Pentacon / 2.5 mm (balance), a short cable for connecting to a linear output (4.4 mm / 3.5 mm), a stylish leather case in light brown and Mandatory warranty documents.




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Yes, you will rarely find such a plentiful package bundle, and in it all accessories are absolutely necessary: indeed, absolutely everything here can come in handy sooner or later. Such a sincere concern shown by the manufacturer, of course, captivates.


However, we won’t be able to devote any time to looking at all these numerous adapters and cables, since all our attention will inevitably immediately turn to the DX220 MAX. It looks just amazing! This is a large, polished like sea pebbles, and unusually beautiful machine.




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MAX is in many respects similar in appearance to its brothers, but at the same time it has a number of key distinctive features. Case material is made of stainless steel. The volume control, which received a smoother ride, migrated from the side to the front of the panel, closer to the connectors. Next to them, he looks like a mighty knight in sparkling gold armor. And now is the time to talk about the truly chivalrous dimensions of the DAP itself - 145 mm x 86 mm x 27 mm with a weight of 700 grams. When you hold this audio machine, you involuntarily understand that it is power!



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On the front panel, in addition to the volume control, there are analog outputs: linear 4.4 mm, balanced (Pentacon) 4.4 mm and the usual 3.5 mm headphone jack.


There are no control buttons, so now the device is controlled exclusively through the touch screen. However, at the back end we still find the only physical POWER button. There are also: an input for connecting a power adapter (analog part of “DC-in”), a button on / off / screen activation, USB type-C (for charging the digital part of the device and synchronization with a PC) and a digital output of 3.5 mm S / PDIF (combined optics / coaxial).


On the left side is a microSD slot, the internal memory of the device is 128 GB!



The chic screen already familiar to us from the DX220, Sharp with a diagonal of 5 inches, like the back panel, is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass.

To communicate with the outside world, the player has a number of wireless modules: Wi-Fi 2.4 - 5G and Bluetooth 5.0

When connected via USB type-C to a desktop PC or laptop, the device can act as an external DAC / sound card.




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Built MAX on two DAC chips ESS Saber 9028PRO. Audio transmission is based on the principle of bit perfect and supports PCM sampling up to 32 bit / 384 kHz and DSD256.

The amplifier part of the player is implemented on a discrete circuit based on AMP8 and works in class “A”.



As I already mentioned, as many as 5 lithium-polymer batteries are installed in the player: one (4400 mAh, 3.8 V) feeds the digital part of the device, the rest (900 mAh, 8.4 V, charge with a separate power supply) - analog. The discharge is not synchronous, the indication of each section is displayed at the top of the display.

The analog part of the device is charged via the “DC-in” connector, and the digital part via USB type-C (supplied cable + network adapter from any smartphone).

One "joint" charge cycle is enough for about 10-14 hours of operation, which is quite decent for an apparatus of this level, and even with an amplifier operating in class "A". Well, and as always, the type of plug-in headphones, the format of the listening files and the volume level will have a noticeable effect on the player’s “vitality”.



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Summing up the line for this part of the review, we can safely say that the iBasso DX220 MAX is made for centuries: it is a monolithic design, where there is no slackness in any element, everything is clear and reliable. Well, using this DAP is a pleasure. It is tactilely pleasant, and you are charged with optimism and calmness from its attractive impressiveness.



Software and control


For the internal contents of the device are responsible for Android 8.1 and its own Mango OS.

For installing third-party applications, the already installed APKPure is responsible, so that any Android program can be found and downloaded independently in a matter of minutes.


The DX220 MAX, like the DX220, has dual boot (dual boot), which allows you to convert the gadget into an independent virtual Mango-player format, which has acquired a stylish interface and convenient controls.




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In general, the choice is yours. In addition to music, you want access to the Internet and all kinds of programs - Android. If you want a clean audio player - choose Mango OS.


The device software is updated both online (MAX finds and updates software when connected to a Wi-Fi network), and by downloading proprietary software from the manufacturer’s website and installing from a memory card. We know this from the DX220.


All navigation, as you already know, is performed using the touch screen: “swipe”, “curtain” and “touch” - in a word, everything is simple and familiar, like on smartphones.



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So, we figured out the external and internal contents of the player, let's finally talk about its most intimate essence - the sound!




Sound


Listening (audio testing) was conducted on:  64 AUDIO A18, 64 AUDIO A12t, Vision Ears VE8, Custom ART FIBAE4, InEar PP8, InEar PMX, Beyerdynamic DT250/250, Phonon 4400 & Phonon SMB-02.


The DX220 MAX did a great job with both low-impedance sensitive IEM/CIEM and high-impedance full-size headphone models. No noise and distortion was noticed, and the volume control on High gain did not even twist out by half.




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As for the connection MAX with my planar HifiMan HE-4 / HE-6, the following should be noted: the sound itself was at a height, but the volume control had to be twisted to the maximum value. Personally, such a volume turned out to be quite enough for me, but I suspect that someone of this volume level will not be enough. But for the pair of Fostex T50RP MK3 - DX220 MAX I have no comments at all.


However, if we recall that not all stationary home systems are capable of shaking the above-mentioned planar headphone models, then this test was successfully passed by the device as well.


We discussed all the technical features of sound production, now we will talk only about the beautiful sound, no longer distracted by important, but a little distracting clarifications.




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From the very first minutes of listening, MAX is fascinating with its power, dynamics, excellent tonal balance and amazing musicality. This is a large, massive layer of sound in which a neutral, well-balanced manner and sophisticated melody harmoniously coexist, embodied in a lively and organic form.


Here, common features are guessed with the brothers in the face of the DX200 / 220 paired with AMP7 / AMP8, but in the case of the DX220 MAX everything is much more serious. Everything here sounds much more mature, virtual images are displayed much larger, the volume is larger, and the space is wider and much deeper. This is a timbre-rich, solid musical canvas, on which all the smallest details of the composition are relief and very accurately displayed. The striking harmony of micro- and macrodynamics, where the displayed musical images are clothed in flesh and filled with living, bodily substance.


The device produces a rather spreading stereo panorama, harmoniously and proportionately building a virtual space both in width and in depth. The overall musical canvas emerges quite integrally, in contrast, with accurate and natural transmission of sound tones.




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Low frequencies strike the ears with a hard, powerful and crushing blow. The bass is fast, embossed, thick and well-assembled, supports the atmosphere with its energetic manner, clearly maintains the rhythm and fills the middle with dense velvety substance. The drum section fires aimed shots on both sides of the listener, and the bass, cellos and double bass parts are transmitted deeply, vibrantly and dynamically. The strength of each individual blow is clearly distinguishable, this creates an additional illusion of the volume of internal space.


In this register there is not even a hint of buzz and muttering, but there is a harmony of quantity and quality combined with excellent balance. Everything is served powerfully and with due pressure!




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The mids is smooth, natural, timbrally rich and textured. Here, every musical instrument and image is endowed with a bodily basis. This is an extremely naturalistic and plastic manner, with amazing contrast and a wide dynamic range, where every sound, instrument and every note played is in its place in space. Extremely lively and naturalistic, the emotional component of the composition is transmitted.

Gracefully, smoothly and expressively sound stringed instruments, winds and pianos. Vocal parts are transmitted unusually deep, noble and harmonious. Male and female voices are displayed in relief, tight and naturalistic.


There is nothing to complain about, everything is impeccable, as, however, in the case of lower case.





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The high-frequency register is accurate, clear and clean. He doesn’t try to confuse the listener by straining him with an abundance of “air”, and does not bother him with excessive ringing, here you will not even hear a hint of dirt or distortion, at MAX everything is honest and deed - correct, accurate, clean and high-quality working out this range.

The device transfers the treble extremely intelligently and finely: elegant, large and multifaceted, smooth and informative with good articulation, filed in an elegant and comfortable form, completes the overall private harmony.



There were no weaknesses in terms of genre preferences in the DX220 MAX either. Everything is tough for him: classical music, instrumental, jazz, electronics, rock and all kinds of more brutal genres of direction.




In fact, I must admit that the sound of the DX220 MAX does not want to be divided into separate frequency ranges, as it is delivered whole, harmonious, noble, with a single audio array. In this amazing sound, I want to dissolve and swim along with my favorite music into the distance to the divine harmonies and sonorous heights of enchanting harmonies!




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Conclusion


DX220 MAX is without exaggeration a chic device! Everything is fine in it: from design, implementation of the technical part, to the main thing - SOUND.

This device is completely finished in every sense (premium packaging, great kit, chic design, cool screen and user-friendly software), harmonious and balanced in everything, which can be considered as a statement by Urbi et orbi (city and the world) from iBasso.


Without a doubt, MAX will become one of the most revered and beloved audio players among true connoisseurs of sound.

In general, in my opinion, as a portable solution, the DX220 is a more convenient option. Take your favorite removable amplifier module that fits your headphones, pop your player into your pocket and go for a walk. But if you need sound without compromise, then MAX in this case is an ultimate device. In terms of sound, the iBasso DX220 MAX is able to compete not only with the best portable and desktop devices, but also with a serious stationary home audio system.



It remains only to inform about the price of this pleasure. The DX220 MAX will be available for $ 1,888. Yes, the price is not small, but the upscale sound in the original design is worth so much.


In general, if you have the opportunity to fork out for a chic sound, then without any hesitation I recommend the iBasso DX220 MAX for purchase.




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Pros - Sound, set, design, functionality, 


Cons - price








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