iBasso DC04Pro Review

iBasso DC04Pro Review: Offers a wide stage, detail and balance

iBasso DC04Pro
9

It so happened that in two months, out of four of my reviews, three were devoted to the topic of USB dongles or, as they are also called, “whistles”. Indeed, this format of portable devices has gained a lot of popularity these days. This is confirmed by both the appearance of new models from various manufacturers and the improvement of previously released ones. The company iBasso, with the first “scroll” I got to know back in 2019 ( iBasso DC01 ), is an example of those manufacturers who are actively developing this segment. The model range includes the main models of USB dongles from DC01 to DC06, plus advanced versions of some of them with a Pro attachment.

The new iBasso DC04Pro is significantly different from its predecessor DC04 and looks very similar to the DC03Pro.
The new iBasso DC04Pro is significantly different from its predecessor DC04 and looks very similar to the DC03Pro.

Another “whistle” from iBasso, with the prefix Pro, came to me for review. We are talking about the new  iBasso DC04Pro . With the previous DC04 model, the Pro version shares the same dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 chip. However, in its appearance, the DC04Pro is significantly different from the DC04 and resembles the younger  iBasso DC03Pro as much as possible . At the time of writing the review, the price tag of the DC04Pro is not only the largest among the iBasso USB dongles presented on the “Portativa” website, but it is approximately 70% higher than the DC04 and DC03Pro. Therefore, the DC04Pro caused me some interest and anticipation. So, I will talk about my impressions of the iBasso DC04Pro in this review.

Despite all the external similarities of the DC04Pro with the younger DC03Pro, the older model is characterized by a slightly larger size and twice the weight.

iBasso DC04Pro Review

The iBasso company has been relentlessly following the packaging of its “whistles” in plastic transparent cases with rounded edges for more than a year. On separate silver cardboard inserts under a transparent cover, in addition to the name of the company and the model, the Hi-Res Audio logo and data on the sampling frequency are placed.

Inside the case, the space is divided into two layers. In the upper part – iBasso DC04Pro is located in white foam protection; in the lower one – a wire in fabric insulation USB typeC-typeC and an adapter from typeC to USB typeA. Also, a separate typeC-Lightning cable is attached to the right side of the box in a separate bag (it is difficult to call such a solution practical, but an additional complete cable increases variability). On the manufacturer’s website, the premium typeC cable  CB18 is offered as an option for the DC04Pro .

The diversity of the DC04Pro configuration allows you to use the device right out of the box, connecting it to various sound sources. Of course, this is a positive point. In addition, the packaging plastic box, after removing two layers of foam protection, can be used as a case for the DC04Pro, complete accessories or some in-canal headphones.

The new DC04Pro is made in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped with rounded corners.
The new DC04Pro is made in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped with rounded corners.

Design and ergonomics

iBasso DC04Pro differs from the previous DC04 only by the “Pro” prefix. But in terms of design, the DC04Pro bears little resemblance to the DC04. The DC04Pro version looks completely similar to the DC03Pro, except that the older version has larger dimensions and weight.

As in the case of the DC03Pro, the new DC04Pro is made in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped with rounded corners. As design elements, the DC04Pro combines gray metal and black tempered glass. Compared to the DC03Pro, the DC04Pro does not have new functional keys – there are only two oval buttons for volume control. The signal sampling indicator also remained as a thin bar that changes color. The most significant difference between the DC04Pro and the DC03Pro is, of course, the appearance of an additional 4.4 mm balanced headphone output on one of the ends. Otherwise, both devices are as similar as possible.

Ergonomics is standard for similar devices, I did not experience any inconvenience. The only thing I note is that, for example, with the new  FiiO KA5 , the convenience of control is implemented at a higher level – there is an additional physical button, a small information screen, as well as the ability to directly control the functions of the device. The DC04Pro’s heating during operation was moderate.

Functionality

Most people will probably use the iBasso DC04Pro with their smartphones, but personally for me the main scenario for such devices remains their connection to computers (laptops). Therefore, I will start with this.

On the iBasso website, it is suggested to install the driver for DC04Pro under WinOS (the driver for DC03Pro did not work, the Foobar2000 program constantly gave an error). After installing the driver, there were no further issues with the operation of the DC04Pro. The indicator correctly displayed sampling frequencies of music files: green color – PCM, blue – DSD, red – standby mode.

Sonically, the DC04Pro offers a wide stage, detail and balance.
Sonically, the DC04Pro offers a wide stage, detail and balance.

Before connecting to the Android smartphone, I installed the iBasso UAC application. As mentioned earlier, now the capabilities of this program have been expanded: adjusting the volume, changing the balance of the right and left channels, choosing one of 5 digital filters, changing the gain level, energy efficiency mode. Then everything is the same – the color of the indicator changes, depending on the sampling frequency.

From my experience, connecting “whistles” to the phone is faster and easier than to laptops, when you need to perform certain actions to install drivers and work correctly.

Most people will use the iBasso DC04Pro with their smartphones.
Most people will use the iBasso DC04Pro with their smartphones.

Sound

Getting acquainted with the new USB dongles that came to me for reviews during the year, I came to the subjective conclusion that there were no clearly failed models. And the iBasso company , starting with the first DC01, has been constantly improving the sound of its dongles. Therefore, it was expected that the sound of the iBasso DC04Pro was also realized at a high level.

Overall, we have a technical, precise, detailed and balanced sound with a wide soundstage. Separately, I liked the separation and positioning of musical instruments and vocals, which together create a single musical canvas.

Low frequencies

They have sufficient depth, power, density and speed. The bass is informative, textured and within its range without affecting the perception of other frequencies.

Medium frequencies

This spectrum is characterized by clean, open sound and detail. To the good separation of instruments and vocals mentioned above, I would add the naturalness and body of the midrange, as well as their consistency with other ranges.

High frequencies

I didn’t really like the treble in the previous DC04. Often they sounded too bright, with a certain amount of aggression, standing out against the general background. The new Pro version of the dongle is devoid of these shortcomings of the HF image. DC04Pro’s treble is cleaner and more natural than its predecessor. They have spaciousness and transparency. I will also note acceptable micro-detailing and the presence of a certain layering, which for such a dongle is its competitive advantage.

Comparisons

With your permission, I will not make specific comparisons, and now I will explain why. Over the course of the year I got to know a number of dongles, mainly from FiiO, iBasso, a few Shanling and ddHiFi. As I already mentioned, I did not come across any clearly unsuccessful models among them. All were good for their price, showed more or less quality, relatively balanced sound and of course had their advantages and disadvantages. When using these “whistles”, the general perception of music often depended not so much on the dongles themselves, but on the headphones. The fact that various manufacturers of USB dongles have achieved a high level of implementation of technical capabilities in this portable format cannot but be pleasing. So, when it comes to such a difficult choice, where everything can be decided by nuances or personal preferences, it is better to make a choice relying only on your own preferences.

Conclusion

The new iBasso DC04Pro is significantly different from its predecessor DC04 and looks very similar to the DC03Pro. I note that the DC04Pro has two headphone outputs (standard 3.5 mm and balanced 4.4 mm), high output power, and an additional complete typeC-Lightning cable. Sonically, the DC04Pro offers a wide stage, detail and balance. All this makes the iBasso DC04Pro not only a worthy representative of the USB-dongles range, but, in a certain sense, also a “pumped up” version of the DC03Pro and a device worth getting acquainted with.

Technical specifications:

  • DAC model: two CS 43131 Cirrus Logic;
  • Output power (32 Ohms, balanced output): 280 mW;
  • Sampling frequency: 384 kHz/32 bits/DSD256;
  • Headphone output: unbalanced 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm balanced;
  • Connector for connecting to a sound source: USB-Type C;
  • Changeable cable;
  • Built-in battery: absent;
  • Dimensions: 59x23x12 mm;
  • Weight: 21 g
  • Official site

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