iBasso DX320
iBasso DX320
iBasso DX320

iBasso DX320: Pocket-sized perfection

iBasso DX320
9

Our discussion on audio players progresses, and in today’s episode, we’re honored to host a distinguished delegate from iBasso, a company renowned among audiophiles. For those who have been keeping an eye on the audio scene, it’s no secret that iBasso’s offerings are highly regarded across various price ranges, particularly their players. Although the iBasso DX320 might not be the most budget-friendly option available, it prompts an intriguing inquiry: What sets the iBasso DX320 apart, making it a noteworthy consideration?

Packaging and assembly

We are presented with a sleek, elongated box adorned with a gray sleeve. The front prominently displays the model along with the designation “Reference Digital Audio Player,” while the back bears the inspiring slogan “In pursuit of perfection.” Peeling away this modest cardboard exterior reveals the core packaging: a sophisticated dark blue box, unadorned save for the company’s name and emblem. The anticipation builds as one lifts the lid, an action that feels uniquely ceremonial, unveiling the product in an inviting manner. The interior is meticulously lined with foam rubber, ensuring the utmost protection for every component within. The player itself rests on a plush surface, elegantly embossed with numerous “iBasso” logos, creating a visually appealing presentation.

  • iBasso DX320
  • USB-C cable
  • Coaxial cable
  • Protective film
  • A quick guide
  • Leather case
  • Heating cable …??

In the audiophile community, the concept of “warming up” headphones, players, and other audio equipment is a recognized practice, done either before or after purchase, aimed at priming devices for their best performance. It’s grounded in the belief that audio devices undergo a transformation when powered on for a certain period, allowing the internal circuitry to settle and stabilize at an ideal operating temperature. Advocates argue that this warm-up period enhances the device’s sound quality. The device in question often resembles a simple cable attached to a box, which is thought to house components that generate a specific load to facilitate this process. While I approach this practice with a degree of skepticism, it’s an open field for experimentation for those intrigued by the potential auditory benefits.

Design

The design of the device can be aptly summarized as a “minimalist brick.” It’s straightforward, featuring a black chassis and matching buttons, embodying a no-frills aesthetic. A notable detail is the slant on the right side of the frame, a design choice that suggests an emphasis on ergonomics, possibly to ensure a more comfortable grip and prevent any discomfort during use. Additionally, the presence of a Hi-Res sticker serves as a badge of quality, reassuring users of the device’s high-resolution audio capabilities. This understated yet functional player is offered in two color options: black and blue, catering to personal preferences while maintaining its minimalistic charm.

Comfort of use

The player stands out for its robust construction, emphasizing durability and quality craftsmanship. However, its size and weight make it less ideal for those seeking portability, leaning more towards a stationary use scenario. A significant point of discussion is its control mechanism, particularly the volume wheel, which may draw mixed reactions. Unlike some competitors like Shanling or Astell&Kern, the wheel is not recessed into the body, leaving it exposed and potentially vulnerable to accidental adjustments or damage. Additionally, the tactile feedback of the wheel’s movement is described as mediocre, lacking in the precision or satisfaction some users might expect.

Another minor drawback mentioned is the absence of a protective cover for the memory card slot. This design choice can lead to aesthetic concerns, as it leaves an open gap on the device, and practical issues, with the potential for dust and debris to enter the player. Despite these critiques, the device does have its strengths, notably in performance. The heat generated during operation is noticeable, yet it doesn’t lead to performance throttling, hinting at efficient thermal management. A standout feature is the player’s speed, attributed to its 6 GB of RAM, ensuring smooth operation without freezes or lengthy loading times, enhancing the overall user experience.

Features

The iBasso DX320 distinguishes itself with a sophisticated parametric EQ, featuring a 6-band setup complemented by 8 types of high-precision filters. This allows users to adjust each filter section independently for meticulous sound customization, ensuring minimal distortion and optimal equalization across various listening scenarios. This advanced EQ capability far surpasses the functionality of traditional graphic equalizers, catering to the needs of professional audiophiles.

Power output is another area where the DX320 shines. With a maximum balanced output voltage of 7.1V rms, it effortlessly drives most full-size headphones. The device boasts an impressive output power of 1200 mW at a 32 Ohm load, positioning it as a powerhouse among portable digital audio players (DAPs).

At its core, the DX320 is powered by a 14nm 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, supported by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of ROM, ensuring smooth operation and ample storage for high-quality audio files.

To address the common issue of sound distortion caused by the interplay of high current consumption between digital and analog components, the DX320 employs a patented dual battery structure. This innovative design segregates the power supply to the AMP and digital sections, significantly reducing distortion and enhancing sound quality.

The device’s signal integrity and reproduction are further refined by the FPGA-Master audio system controller, which directly interacts with the SoC to manage audio data. This, alongside the use of two Accusilicon femtosecond oscillators, ensures all audio clock signals are perfectly synchronized, minimizing jitter and producing a pristine digital audio signal.

The inclusion of the BD34301 EKV DAC chip from ROHM’s high-end MUSIC series underscores the DX320’s commitment to delivering exceptional audio quality. This DAC chip focuses on spatial reverberation, quietness, and dynamic range, essential attributes for the authentic reproduction of music.

For connectivity, the DX320 is equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, supporting apt-X, AAC/SBC, and LDAC codecs, offering versatile wireless audio options.

Regarding controls, the DX320 features a total of five input methods: a touchscreen, three physical buttons, and a volume wheel. The physical buttons provide a straightforward and effective way to navigate playlists, a preference for many users. While detailed commentary on the volume wheel’s design has been provided, the touchscreen remains an integral part of the user interface, facilitating direct interaction with the device’s features and settings.

The iBasso DX320 boasts a 6.5-inch full-screen display that outshines the competition in digital audio players. With a resolution of 2340×1080 pixels, it offers unmatched clarity and color accuracy, setting a new standard for visual quality in the realm of high-fidelity audio devices. The inclusion of a light indicator at the top of the screen is a thoughtful touch, providing users with an immediate visual cue of the player’s operational status. The display’s brightness and contrast levels are exceptional, delivering vibrant colors that enhance the user experience significantly.

Additionally, the screen features an elegantly designed indicator bar that not only blends seamlessly with the overall aesthetic but also offers functional feedback by changing colors according to the audio format being played. This innovative feature allows users to easily identify the format at a glance, with colors such as red for MQA, mint green for FLAC 44.1-48 kHz (16-24 bit), and yellow for FLAC 96 kHz (24 bit).

The device comes with a high-quality leather case, which, while not shockproof, effectively protects the player from scratches and scuffs. The case’s interior mirrors the plush design found within the player’s packaging. However, a notable drawback is the case’s interference with the volume control wheel, making it cumbersome to adjust the volume, a minor yet significant inconvenience that might detract from the overall user experience.

When it comes to battery life and charging, the DX320 presents a mixed bag. The dual-battery setup, with capacities of 2000 mAh and 4000 mAh for the analog and digital circuits respectively, suggests a thoughtful approach to power management. Although the manufacturer advertises 15 hours of playback time from a 2.5-hour charge, practical use suggests a slightly lower performance, offering around 10-12 hours under optimal conditions. This discrepancy, while notable, is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the device’s less portable nature diminishes the need for extended battery life. Nonetheless, users should be prepared for longer charging times and relatively quicker battery depletion.

Sound

The iBasso DX320 delivers a sound profile that can be succinctly described as neutral, offering an uncolored and faithful reproduction of music. However, delving deeper into its audio characteristics reveals a more nuanced picture. The device excels in producing a sound that is both clear and pristine across the spectrum. Its low frequencies stand out for their density and depth, providing a solid foundation without overwhelming the overall mix. The midrange is rendered with a rich, melodic quality, ensuring vocals and instruments are conveyed with warmth and clarity. High frequencies shine with brightness and detail, allowing for an immersive listening experience that captures the nuances of each recording.

A hallmark of a superior audio source is its ability to deliver the most accurate signal possible, maintaining the original tonal balance and sound characteristics without alteration. This fidelity is crucial for high-quality music reproduction, ensuring a realistic and lossless auditory image. For those seeking to explore beyond the neutral sound signature, iBasso offers the flexibility to tailor the listening experience through its advanced audio settings. While this customization may come at an additional cost, it provides audiophiles with the opportunity to experiment with different soundscapes, enhancing their engagement with music.

The iBasso DX320 introduces a unique feature for audiophiles and enthusiasts alike with its interchangeable amplifier module located at the bottom of the device. This innovative design allows users to customize their listening experience by swapping out the default amplifier module, the AMP11, for alternative options such as the iBasso AMP12 or AMP13, depending on their preference for sound characteristics and output requirements.

The AMP12 module is distinguished by its high power output and the inclusion of two balanced outputs, catering to users seeking a more robust driving capability for their headphones. This makes it an ideal choice for those who demand greater power and versatility from their audio setup.

On the other hand, the AMP13 module offers a distinctive auditory experience by incorporating a vacuum tube into its design. This tube amplification brings the warm, rich, and nuanced sound signature that many audiophiles cherish, reminiscent of classic audio equipment. The option to integrate tube sound into a modern digital audio player like the DX320 is a testament to iBasso’s commitment to providing a wide range of auditory experiences to suit the varied tastes of its user base.

Such modularity not only enhances the device’s versatility but also allows for a personalized audio journey, enabling users to explore different soundscapes by simply changing the amplifier module.

Conclusion

During the testing, the device was paired with the Noble Audio Ronin, leading to an auditory experience characterized by smoothness, openness, detail, and harmony. While it’s challenging to pinpoint whether the iBasso DX320 or the Noble Audio Ronin primarily contributed to this specific sound quality, one conclusion is clear: the iBasso DX320 delivers precisely what the listener seeks. It reveals both the strengths and flaws within a mix, ensuring a comprehensive listening experience. Despite various critiques, it’s undeniable that the iBasso DX320 stands as a commendable contender in its class, garnering a well-deserved following and fanbase.

iBasso DX320
iBasso DX320
9