Stereocheck Reviews:
iBasso DX260 Review 1
iBasso DX260 Review 1

iBasso DX260 Review: Hi-fi player tailored for music enthusiasts

In 2011, iBasso made history by introducing the world’s first Android player, a premium device priced at around $900. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Today, I have the iBasso DX260 player for review. Exploring Hi-Fi players is quite intriguing, especially since I’ve only recently delved into this topic and have been using it for almost 2 weeks now.

This sub-flagship model from iBasso recently hit the shelves. It is equipped with 8 Cirrus Logic CS43198 chips, making it a compelling option for those looking to enhance their listening experience.

Unpacking and packaging

The box possesses a dual-fold structure, with a partially placed holographic-effect cover on the left side, allowing the main portion of the box to remain visible. The cover solely displays the model’s name at the center, accompanied by the brand name below, exhibiting a minimalist yet aesthetically pleasing design. The box itself is adorned in gray, featuring the company logo and name. However, its design peculiarity lies in its unconventional opening mechanism, as the box halves are angled rather than parallel, creating an intriguing and distinctive appearance.

Configuration:

  • the iBasso DX260 player itself
  • fabric cable about 1 meter USB type c – USB A – for charging and synchronization (so that you can record music on the built-in memory, for example)
  • strange cable, at first glance, 4.4 mm Pentacon for nothing? In fact, this is a cable for warming up the player, some believe it, and some do not, but you can try.
  • RCA cable – 3.5 mm (for connecting to sound sources)
  • “disposable” silicone cover
  • as many as 4 protective film changes per screen
  • warranty card and user manual

The package is cool, but I recommend replacing the cover as soon as possible. First, it collects fingerprints, scratches and can turn yellow over time, as happens with cheap cases included with some Xiaomis. But it’s definitely better than if it wasn’t there at all, it will give you the opportunity for some time not to worry about the integrity of the player when using it.

Specifications

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Weight and size indicators:

  • weight: 229 grams
  • dimensions: 123×74.5×17.5 mm

Screen:

  • 5 inches from Sharp with a resolution of 1920×1080 (full hd)

Format support:

  • APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ACC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD and DST

Wireless connection:

  • Bluetooth 5.0

Battery:

  • capacity 4400 mAh
  • operating time up to 14 hours depending on the method of use
  • charging time is about 2.5 hours

Balanced output 4.4 mm:

  • voltage: 6 V
  • output power: 1015 mW at 32 ohms
  • coefficient of nonlinear distortion: <0.5%
  • frequency response: 10 Hz – 75 kHz – 1 dB
  • sensitivity: 133 dB
  • dynamic range: 133 dB

Unbalanced 3.5 mm output:

  • voltage: 3 V
  • output power: 280 mW at 32 ohms
  • output power: 586 mW at 16 ohms
  • coefficient of nonlinear distortion: <0.1%
  • frequency response: 10 Hz – 75 kHz – 1 dB
  • sensitivity: 128 dB
  • dynamic range: 128 dB

Features:

  • 8-core Cirrus Logic CS43198 audio chip
  • built-in memory 64 GB
  • processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
  • 4 gigabytes of RAM
  • Android 11

 

Design and features

I’ll start with the screen. It is quite large, 5 inches, and occupies almost the entire front panel, only from the bottom there is a thick frame, but this is done for convenience, so that there are no phantom presses. The screen itself is very high-quality, has good viewing angles, colors do not invert and do not lose brightness, that is, they did not skimp on it here, and that is good. Because we will look at it often, and if it was bad, even if the player sounded good, it would cause some discomfort when using it, that’s fine here.

Now about the design of the body, and there is a lot to talk about here. Let’s say right away that the player is available in two colors:  silver and  black . I have black, the color of the frame and the color of the back are different. By the way, I did not understand what material it is made of, but it looks like glass to the touch, and it cools the hand like glass. The back cover is removable so that the battery can be replaced (if the built-in one begins to hold a charge worse over time).

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The design of the case itself is very futuristic, this metal element near the volume control and the volume control itself and the way it is designed are aesthetically pleasing. When you just look at it and understand what you paid for. You see, the screen and design are already worthy of attention, and we haven’t even gotten to the functionality and sound yet.

In terms of ergonomics, everything is also good here, the right side is flat, the player controls are located on it, the left side has a triangular, chopped profile for a comfortable grip, and besides, it also looks cool from a design point of view. Despite the thickness of the player is about 17 mm, which is twice as much as a smartphone, its height and width are smaller, so it is convenient to use with one hand

Features:

  • CS43198 is the flagship chip from Cirrus Logic.  iBasso DX260 is built on 8 such chips. Endowed with excellent dynamic range, pronounced resolution to micro details and low noise level, it ensures high performance.
  • integrated into the player’s firmware is the convenient and advanced Mango Player, thanks to which you can listen to music from a memory card or internal memory, adjust the sound to yourself, easily move between albums, genres and even styles.
  • Android 11+ Mango OS. A fairly new version of Android will allow you to install streaming services for smooth operation and support. The DX260 efficiently processes the signal thanks to SRC at the system level, whether it is from Mango Player or from a third-party service. The Mango operating system is written on Linux, has its own developed project for audio playback, contains many optimizations of the basic driver algorithm, which are focused on audio playback.
  • FPGA-Master 2.0 is an advanced audio system controller. It also requests audio data from the SoC and performs an important role in signal reproduction and maintaining its integrity. It synchronizes and generates all sound clocks using two NDK femtosecond oscillators to achieve full single-source synchronization. FPGA-Master 2.0 also has picosecond precision control for an efficient DAC clock, creates an FIR filter.
  • thanks to FPGA-Master 2.0, the CS43198 chip has further development, and it makes sense to explore it further. Synchronous Parallel Output Mode: This reduces “discrete distortion” between DACs to improve overall performance. FIR 2x, FIR 4x mode Thanks to FPGA-Master 2.0, precise picosecond-level control and tuning of the DAC clock frequency and data is achieved, so that each data stream can be adjusted independently. Thanks to the “parallel delay” of 4 DACs, the microcircuits form an analog FIR filter. This averages out the differences between multiple DACs, minimizing distortion while increasing realism and detail in the sound.
  • dedicated USB receiver for low-latency DAC mode, ASIO/WASAPI output

 

Control bodies, connection interfaces

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The first thing that attracts attention is the volume control, which works according to the encoder principle, that is, one that does not have an initial and final position, because the entire indication of the volume change is displayed on the screen. It is also combined with the power button, to turn it on you need to press it until the IBasso logo appears on the screen.
Below the 3 player control buttons, these are controls familiar to all users.

Top button: next track when pressed, fast forward when held.
Center button: play/pause.
Bottom: when pressed, the previous track, when held, rewinds.

At the bottom, there are 2 outputs for headphones, 4.4 mm balanced Pentacon, and 3.5 mm unbalanced Jack. They are interestingly highlighted in golden rings, firstly, it looks beautiful, and secondly, it is possible that scratches near the connectors do not appear after frequent connection and disconnection of headphones.

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There is an SPDIF interface on top – for connections to sound sources; USB C connector – for charging and synchronizing with a computer or device in order to download music to the player. And a slot for a micro SD card up to 2 TB.

Functional

In the Android mode, iBasso DX260 functions like a smartphone, allowing users to view photos, videos, play games, and listen to music. Despite lacking a camera and communication module, it boasts a powerful processor and ample RAM for smooth performance. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor paired with 4GB of RAM ensures quick interface navigation and app launching without any freezing issues during testing. However, upon initial setup, the absence of a familiar app store like PlayMarket was noticeable, with a Chinese alternative featuring a UFO icon causing the player to reboot upon launch.

Initially, I considered sticking to the internal Mango Player exclusively, but upon exploring the update section, I discovered the option to install updates. Subsequently, the initial program vanished from the home screen, replaced by Aptoid, through which I successfully installed Spotify. Notably, a recent update introduced PlayMarket and Gboard (Google keyboard) to the player. Pre-installed default programs include Chrome, Clock, Settings, Gallery, Calculator, Files, and a non-functional Chinese app (later replaced through an update).

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The following are available in the top curtain for quick settings:

  • adjusting the brightness of the display
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • display orientation (locked or unlocked)
  • selection of line or headphone output
  • a choice of five digital sound filters
  • gain switching (L, M, H)
  • the ability to change the impulse response to 2 x or 4 x, or turn it off altogether
  • change the theme from light to dark
  • take a screenshot
  • and flight mode

 

The sound-related aspects are undeniably the most captivating. The sound parameters accessible through the interface are also present in the settings. Additionally, you have the option to set a volume limit to prevent any inadvertent damage to your headphones or potential hearing impairment. This is crucial as the player, with its balance and high gain, generates over 1 watt of power.

Now, let’s navigate directly to the sound settings within Mango Player, all while staying within the Android platform. This allows you to enjoy music either from a memory card or the device’s internal storage.

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By going to the settings, you can:

  • disable the pause between tracks, for a seamless transition
  • adjust the gain as well
  • choose the playback mode, in a circle, alternately, repeat the same track, or mixed
  • equalizer, we can choose from ready-made sound presets, or adjust each sound parameter to our liking
  • you can scan the memory card to find all the tracks
  • simply use the player as a wired DAC or wirelessly via Bluetooth
  • customize the player design
  • sleep timer

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Let’s discuss how the player functions independently of Android and how to access it. To start Mango Player without Android, simply press the on/off wheel and locate the “To Mango” button on the left side. The player’s interface remains essentially the same, but in my view, it appears more authentic and stylish, with similar settings that somehow look more appealing. You can manually adjust the equalizer and choose presets, with the exact frequency changes displayed. Navigation to folders, albums, and tracks is more user-friendly. Additionally, you have the option to select a background theme for the player.

Regarding battery life, the manufacturer states that the player can operate for up to 14 hours at an average volume level, although this may be under ideal conditions without the screen activated. Realistically, you can expect around 9-10 hours with Wi-Fi enabled. The charging time is approximately 2.5 hours with a standard charger, but using a 25-watt charger reduces it to about 1.5 hours.

Sound

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When discussing the sound quality of the iBasso DX260, it’s important to note that it comes with 64 GB of built-in memory, with 50 GB available for use after accounting for system and program installations. Additionally, streaming services can take up additional space over time. Therefore, it’s recommended to invest in a memory card, preferably 512 GB, which can store around 12 thousand songs in Flac quality.

I also explored Spotify for its convenience and extensive music library. While the difference in sound quality between downloaded Flac files and Spotify may not be very noticeable on simpler devices, it becomes more apparent on high-quality players like the iBasso DX260. Streaming services can be useful for discovering new music through AI recommendations, but for a more immersive and detailed listening experience, storing music on a memory card is preferable.

In my experience, streaming services tend to lose some micro and macro details in sound quality compared to music stored on a memory card. The latter provides a more analog, natural sound with richer overtones and textures, enhancing the overall listening experience and emotional connection to the music.

I had to test this player using up to 4 pairs of in-ear monitors (IEMs) and each one provided a slightly different listening experience. It may seem confusing, but each headphone has its own unique sound signature, presentation, and color. In terms of the player’s sound profile, it can be described as vibrant, emotional, lively, and mood-boosting for the listener.

Bass frequencies are emphasized, yet refined enough not to overpower the music, adding energy and incredible texture to every beat. The percussiveness, smoothness, and impact are notable, although the speed may not be the fastest unless you adjust the impulse response settings for a quicker bass delivery, which is particularly beneficial for certain genres.

The midrange frequencies are not particularly emphasized, but their delivery varies depending on the headphones used. They are well-separated from the lows and highs, offering clear and full-bodied vocals for both male and female singers without any artificial enhancements.

On the other hand, the high frequencies are bright and emphasized, bordering on the edge of being too sharp for some listeners. Those sensitive to high frequencies may prefer using darker headphones to avoid any discomfort. In my experience, the VHF and HF ranges exhibited incredible instrument separation and detail, enhancing emotional depth and revealing nuances in the music like never before.

Conclusion

IBasso has introduced a player that showcases an appealing futuristic design, featuring sleek edges and a captivating volume wheel. What’s even more impressive is its ability to have the battery replaced over time, thanks to the interchangeable cover.

The package comes with a generous selection of 4 films per screen, providing a diverse viewing experience. However, the cover itself is average in quality, but you have the option to use a silicone cover initially and then upgrade to a premium leather one.

In terms of performance, the player operates smoothly, with the only requirement being a firmware update to ensure you have the latest version. With Android 11, you can easily install the latest streaming services. Additionally, the combination of a 660 Snap+4 GB of RAM enables the player to swiftly navigate between applications and menus.

The sound quality of the iBasso DX260 is tailored for music enthusiasts and those who appreciate an emotionally immersive listening experience. Its vibrant and dynamic nature, with emphasized bass and treble, will undoubtedly captivate your senses.

iBasso DX260 Review 1
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