iBasso DX300: Floating over the abyss

Hi friends!


I'll start with an important question: are you ready to dive into the bottomless ocean? Scary, I agree. And if not alone, but with a reliable partner? It is with such a partner in deep-sea voyages in the sound abyss that I want to introduce you.

Today we have a brand new creation from iBasso, the DAP designed to take the flagship pedestal of 2021 - the DX300!


Last summer we told you in detail about the uncompromising-sounding "Mad Max" DX220 MAX, but that device, let's say, is only conditionally portable, and it was released in a limited edition. Our current hero, although he is a kind of ideological continuation of his "MAXimally stuffed" brother, but, nevertheless, was created to take the place of his predecessor in the person of iBasso DX220.

The device inherited a number of remarkable features from its relatives: from the DX220 MAX - two separate batteries (for the CPU and DAC, and the amplifying part), and from the DX150, DX200 and DX220 - the ability to replace the amplification modules (but the old amplifiers are not compatible with the DX300). The rest of the specs are also impressive: a Snapdragon 660 processor, 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, a gorgeous screen, four flagship DAC chips from Cirrus Logic - CS43198 and an FPGA-Master matrix.


Let me remind you that iBasso began its journey with the production of portable amplifiers and DACs. And in 2012, she introduced the DX100 audio player, which won the hearts of music lovers around the world. Later, younger models appeared: DX50, DX90, DX80. And then the flagship DX200 appeared, which, among other things, was notable for the possibility of replacing the amplifier modules. This hereditary trait was passed on to such models as DX150, DX200, DX220 and the hero of our today's review - DX300. Also worth remembering are the recent hits - the iBasso DX120, DX160 and of course the unsurpassed DX220 MAX.


It's time to finish the opening remarks, I will just say as a starting point that the new DX300 is a philosopher and esthete in the world of portable sound, which not only makes the listener enjoy music, but also makes him think about the eternal. But let's talk about everything in order.



Text: Alexey Kashirskey (aka Hans Barbarossa)





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Specifications

OS: Android 9.0 & Mango OS

DAC chip: 4 × Cirrus Logic CS43198

Removable amplifier: AMP-11

Body Material: aluminum alloy

Headphone outputs: (PO) 4.4mm (Pentacon) BAL, 2,5mm BAL, 3.5мм SE; (LO/PO combined 2,5 мм / 3,5 мм / 4,4 мм)

Digital Outputs: 3.5mm S / PDIF Coaxial

CPU: Snapdragon 660

RAM: 6GB LPDDR4

ROM: 128 GB

Card support: MicroSD

Wi-Fi: 802.11b / g / n / ac (2,4 ГГц / 5 ГГц) 2 × 2 MIMO 5G WiFi

Bluetooth 5.0

USB: USB Type-C

Audio format: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ACC, ALAC, ISO, M3U, M3U8

Battery: 4000 mAh 3.8V lithium ion polymer battery + 2000 mAh 3.8V lithium ion polymer battery

Charging time: about 3 hours

Playing time: up to 14 hours

Size: about 162 mm * 77 mm * 17 mm

Weight: about 300 grams




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Appearance and kit


The DX300 ships in an exquisite two-piece gray box. The first is a hard dust jacket, which, like a chameleon, shimmers with a pearlescent silver color. It contains the name of the device model with an explanation of the contents of "Reference DAP" and a little below the modest name of the manufacturer's brand. Stylish and laconic, I like it.

A large blue box with a black triangular iBasso logo in the center slides out of it.




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In addition to the DX300, this box contains a whole "dowry": screen protectors, a coaxial cable, a nice USB type-C cable, a burn-in cable, a stylish blue leather case and mandatory warranty instructions.

As always with iBasso, the package is complete and impeccable.




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The DX300 looks pretty impressive (162 mm x 77 mm x 17 mm, weight 300 g) and extremely beautiful. It looks like a chic smartphone, and a graceful gilded wheel on the side adds gloss and aristocracy to it. Such an exquisite gadget, I am sure, would be highly appreciated by the Sun King Louis XIV, famous for his refined taste.

Compared to its predecessors, the DX300 has grown in height, but next to the DX220 MAX it looks much narrower. And in terms of weight, I can tell you, these 0.3 kg are practically not felt in the hand. The ergonomics of the device are beyond praise, and the excellent design further emphasizes its originality. Body material - aluminum alloy. The DX300 is available in two colors: black and blue.




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The entire front panel is occupied by a touch screen, impressive in its characteristics (IPS, 6.5 ", 2340x1080 px), with good responsiveness and excellent color reproduction. Not every modern phone can boast of such a display! Above the screen is an oblong LED indicator that changes color depending on from the audio format being played or illuminated while the device is operating / charging.


The back panel in pearlescent gray with rounded edges is made of plastic with a logo triangle and model designation in the center.




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On the right, at the slightly beveled end, the already mentioned wheel for adjusting the volume flaunts, with a pleasant smooth ride. It is also the on / off button for the device. Three control keys lined up next to him: forward, start / pause, back. There was also a place for the “Hi-Res Audio” sticker.


On the left side there is a slot for microSD in case the internal (128 GB) memory of the device is not enough.

The top edge got a digital coaxial S / PDIF output and a Type-C connector for charging the device and connecting to a PC.


Below is the same new replaceable amplifier module AMP-11 with three audio outputs for headphones (combined with linear "LO"): 4.4 mm (Pentacon) balanced, 2.5 mm balanced and 3.5 mm (SE).




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For all kinds of wireless manipulations on board there are Wi-Fi 802.11b / g / n / ac (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz) 2 × 2 MIMO 5G and Bluetooth 5.0 with LDAC and aptX support.


And when connected via USB type-C to a desktop or laptop, the player can also act as an external DAC / sound card.


Unlike its predecessors with a digital-to-analog part (2 × ESS Saber 9028PRO), the DX300 is built on four Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips (two for each channel), which expands the possibilities of implementing a fully balanced output. For the analog part, as I mentioned earlier, the new amplifier module AMP11 is responsible, implemented on the basis of AMP8, but with the use of updated components and an output power of 1240 mW at a load of 32 ohms.

For digital processing and jitter suppression, iBasso's own FPGA-Master matrix is responsible.




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And this device also has an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC, 6 GB of LPDDR 4x RAM and 128 ROM, which in conjunction with the optimized Android 9.0 gives excellent results!

Two independent lithium-polymer batteries are responsible for powering the DX300: one (3.8V 4000mAh) powers the digital part of the device, the second (3.8V 2000mAh) - the analog one. Discharging is not synchronous, the indication of each section is displayed in the upper part of the display. One "joint" charge cycle is enough for about 13-14 hours of operation with the option of fast charging (Quick Charge). Well, as always, the type of headphones connected, the format of the audio files and the volume level will have a noticeable effect on the "survivability" of the player.


Summing up this part of the review, we can safely say that the iBasso DX300 was a success: it is impeccably made, looks great, stuffed with modern hardware and has an outstanding technical implementation that even the most expensive ultra players can envy. In general, using the player is a pleasure.



Software and control


Android 9.0 and its own Mango OS are responsible for the "intellectual" abilities of the device.

The DX300 can be installed using APKPure, so any Android program can be found and downloaded on your own in minutes.


 The DX300, like its cousins, the DX220 MAX and DX220, has a dual boot, which allows you to choose between Android and the independent virtual Mango player, which has a new stylish interface and even more convenient control.

If you want, in addition to music, access to the Internet, all kinds of programs and streaming services - use Android. If you want a clean audio player, choose Mango OS.

The software update occurs both online (the DX300 finds and installs it by itself when connected to Wi-Fi), and through the manufacturer's website, from where you can download the firmware to a memory card and install it on the device from there. We are familiar with this from the DX200 / 220 / MAX.


A child will also cope with navigation: we swipe across the screen, move the curtains, press with a finger on what we are looking for - everything is simple and familiar, just like in smartphones. Well, if you wish, you can also start and switch audio tracks with the side buttons.

It is worth mentioning that the DX300 is already well optimized out of the box, and the manufacturer promises to regularly improve its software.


So, the player already has a graphic parametric (PMEQ) equalizer and five digital filters: (D1) Fast roll-0ff, (D2) Short delay slow roll-off, (D3) Short delay fast roll-off, (D4) Slow roll -off and (D5) NOS. The last one (NOS) - I personally liked the most.


We have figured out the external and internal content of this player, here everything is fine with the DX300. This is where the most exciting part of our review begins. Forward to an unforgettable audio experience!




Sound 


For the most complete and reliable acquaintance with such an expected and dear guest, I used the "gold reserve" from my collection of Headphones / IEM / CIEM: 64 AUDIO A18 and A12t, Vision Ears VE8, VE4.2 and EVE20, InEar PP8, SD-2 and InEar PMX, FIR Audio M5, M4 and VxV, Softears RS10, Beyerdynamic DT250 / 250, Phonon 4400 and Phonon SMB-02.


Before analyzing the sound, the DX300 worked for about 50-70 hours, which, in my opinion, had a beneficial effect on the final formation of its "voice".

I note right away that the device coped well with both low-impedance sensitive headphones and high-impedance full-size models - no noise or distortion was noticed.




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The sound of the DX300 can be described as well-balanced, atmospheric, smooth, extraordinary melodic, with excellent dynamics and elaboration of plans, as well as stunning reproduction of the depth and breadth of an imaginary space.

This is a fairly neutral style with good detail, an absolutely black background, served in a thick and plastic form, with amazing musicality. The DX300, like a brush in the hands of a talented artist, delicately applies layer by layer to the canvas the entire palette of sounds, clearly placing audio images in their places, so skillfully and vividly that the final audio strip is extremely melodic and embossed.




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The device produces a well-balanced sound, with harmonious development of macro- and micro-nuances, an elegantly forced section in the subbass area, a smooth and extremely melodious mid-range register with a slight euphonious "color" in the upper midrange, as well as a clear, graceful and slightly shy high-frequency range. This is an almost flat frequency response, where, despite the accents, the main stage action takes place in the mid-frequency range.


This approach to sound design is not often found, and it must be said, it is impressive! You seem to be splashing serenely in the middle of a calm and friendly ocean, but its black abyss of depth, which is guessed under you, evokes in you an alarming sense of existential inevitability.




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If, for example, a different sound leads to a rapid heartbeat and the injection of adrenaline into the bloodstream, then the DX300, on the contrary, calms, hypnotizes and makes the heart stop, confronting the listener with the fact that everything is finite. It is simultaneously a bewitching calmness and a state of anxiety, acceptance of inevitability and frightening serenity - a kind of musical ocean of Samsara. This sound is not just utterly atmospheric, it has a kind of magnetism, as I was personally convinced.


I would like to delight in enjoying my favorite music for hours, to get bogged down in it, not thinking about time. This is an extremely picturesque, multilevel, melodic, thick and mesmerizing manner. She wraps the listener like a velvet blanket, conveying the melody smoothly, comfortably and harmoniously, smoothly and at the same time playfully.


If you try to summarize the sound of the DX300, then the main features of its character will be: smoothness, wide dynamic range, excellent tonal balance, rich timbre reproduction, excellent depth and breadth of an imaginary soundstage, harmonious reproduction of micro and macro contrast, as well as extraordinary musicality.




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Let's go over the frequency amplitude in more detail


Sub-bass vibrations and roar amaze the ear with their power and intelligibility. This causes a slight chill of anxiety and internal resonance in the body. The bass is thick, dense, textured and at the same time quite fast, despite its neutral-warm manner. He keeps up everywhere and flawlessly weaves into the mid-range register, darkening the background and filling the listened compositions with timbre variety. Here the fade-in and fade-out of sound is perfectly worked out, and the sound palette is also richly laid out. Everything is beautiful and dynamic.



The mids is smooth, velvety, rich in timbre and textured. Here, every musical image is endowed with a bodily basis. It is an extraordinarily beautiful, well-balanced and melodic manner, with striking contrast and every detail of the composition, where every instrument and every note played is in its place in space. The register is served thickly and at the same time in detail. The timbres and reverberations are conveyed in a picturesque, precise and versatile manner. Male and female vocals are slightly emphasized, they are displayed in relief, dense and naturalistic. It is a comfortable, viscous and textured manner, without harshness or distortion.



High frequencies are clear and concise, they are delivered cleanly and neatly. There is no abundance of "air" or refined after-sounds, but there is a correct working out of small nuances. The register is transmitted accurately and distinctly, without sharpness and distortion. The quantity, as well as the quality of working out Highs, I personally have no complaints. This is an unusually authentic and maximally correct manner, with good articulation, served in a light, graceful and comfortable manner.




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Conclusion


Amazing and somewhat unique DAP! Stylish, modern, comfortable in all respects, with an outstanding implementation of the technical part, functional hardware and a gorgeous screen. This is both a universal multimedia device, ready to work with all streaming services, and an excellent audio player with an unusually interesting and mesmerizing sound.

Bravo iBasso, standing ovation!

In my opinion, the DX300 is good at everything, and simply does not give a chance for nagging and criticism.


It remains only to inform about the cost of this pleasure. The DX300 has a suggested retail price of $ 1199 at the time of writing. Yes, it's not cheap, but that's how much premium sound costs, whether we like it or not.

I recommend iBasso DX300 for purchase without the slightest hesitation - it's worth it.



Pros - Sound, kit, design, functionality

Cons - No (leaving the price in brackets).


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