Your choice: X7ii vs DX200.
Full DX200 review: HERE.
AM3A (X7ii) review: HERE.
The latest flagship DAP releases from iBasso and FiiO have been generating a lot of buzz, with many wanting to find out how X7ii compares to DX200. Both companies have been a breath of fresh air with their sub $1k releases which can give more expensive flagships a run for their money, especially when it comes to sound quality. And they both stepped it up with X7ii continuing to pack more features while keeping the original 1st gen price and DX200 keep pushing the envelope of sound improvement with new amp modules, especially the latest AMP3. I already reviewed DX200 and been posting about AMP3, and I did a write-up about FiiO’s latest AM3A amp which comes standard with X7ii. Now, it’s time to summarize and to make a comparison between these two DAPs.
In this comparison, I used X7ii with its default AM3A module versus DX200 with its new AMP3 (balanced only) module. Both DAPs were set to High Gain, and I selected Fast roll-off filter for ES9028Pro DACs. For listening, I used U18 w/M20 (paired w/1960 4wire balanced terminated cable) and TIA Fourte (paired w/1960 2wire balanced terminated cable).
– Both DAPs have approximately the same length and width, while X7ii is a little thinner and about 30g lighter. Especially with a transparent silicone case which comes standard with X7ii, FiiO DAP feels slimmer next to DX200 and its bulkier leather case with a thicker back panel.
– Due to a location of volume wheel and external hardware playback controls (Play/Stop/Skip) in both DAPs, for me personally I find X7ii to be more comfortable for left handed operation since all the controls and the volume are on the left side, while DX200 is more comfortable for right handed operation since everything is on the right side. Don’t get me wrong, you can use either DAP in right or left hand. But if you are used to controlling the DAP with your thumb, the location of controls can play a role in here. Also, both have headphones jacks located at the bottom of the DAP where amplifier modules attach.
– Both DAPs feature a modular design with replaceable AMP modules, able to accommodate various single ended (3.5mm, TRS) and balanced (2.5mm TRRS) headphone outputs, depending on the module. And recently, iBasso announced a new amp module that going to support 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced connector. DX200 amp modules have a separate Line Out and the DAP itself has a shared SPDIF/Optical port (at the top). X7ii has a shared LO/SPDIF/Optical output port (at the top) which you select from the menu. Some might find a dedicated LO to be more convenient.
– Both DAPs have a very responsive touch screen and a snappy Android OS performance, though DX200 screen is bigger and brighter (4.2″ with 768×1280 resolution), while X7ii (3.97″ with 480×800 res) has a lower resolution with more saturated colors.
– Both DAPs have 64GB of internal storage, while X7ii has dual microSD card and DX200 only has a single microSD card. If you have a big library of high res files (FLAC and DSD), X7ii offers more combined storage to accommodate that.
– Both DAPs have 2GB of RAM which comes in very handy when running various apps. Unfortunately, as of now DX200 doesn’t come with pre-installed Google Play, so the apps will have to be either side-loaded or you will have to install 3rd party Custom ROM with Google Play (2 ROMs are available). FiiO already comes with Google Play pre-installed. Also, X7ii runs on Android 5.1.x while DX200 runs on Android 6.0. In theory, it’s all about OS optimization, rather than which one has the latest release, and both companies are still releasing fixes and updates. FiiO has an advantage of having more SW resources (both internal and with a help from HIBY), while iBasso is relying only on its internal SW team.
– Other noticeable hardware difference is X7ii utilizing only one 9028Pro DAC, while DX200 uses two 9028Pro DACs. These ES DACs are not cheap, and extra DAC adds to the cost, though can also benefit a sound performance.
I like a simpler, less crowded interface, and the new X7ii Simplicity skin delivers exactly that, while DX200 Mango audio app already comes with a clean interface by default. The only comment, with DX200 using Mango app you just need to swipe left/right to get to different Sorting and Settings screen menus. With FiiO Audio app, from the Playback screen you need to tap in the upper left corner on the icon to get to the Main screen, and from there another tap in the upper left corner to get to Settings menu. It’s not the end of the world, just less efficient if you prefer Settings menu access with a single tap/swipe.
– Hissing: with sensitive low impedance iems and low resistance cables, both DAPs have a low level of audible hissing from BAL output when idling, though X7ii is just a bit louder. When playback starts, the hissing almost disappears, hardly even noticeable.
– Soundstage: DX200 soundstage expansion is a little wider in comparison to X7ii, and the soundstage depth in both DAPs is similar with both being not too far out of your head and not too close to the stage.
– Tonality: overall, both have a neutral transparent tonality with a little bit of added warmth and body, complimented by a natural timbre of a sound. Upon closer listening, I find X7ii to sound more neutral while DX200 w/AMP3 is more balanced with a little more energy across lows/mids/treble. Also, DX200 sub-bass goes deeper with a little more rumble, and treble has a bit more sparkle and airiness.
– Both DAPs exhibit a good dynamic expansion and transparency of the sound, and I’m glad that X7ii stepped it up with their new amp design (AM3A) where the sound is not as flat, in comparison to previous releases. Perhaps, DX200 is just a little more dynamic. Layering and separation is pretty good in X7ii, but I hear DX200 with more air between the instruments and the vocals which yields improved layering and better separation. The most noticeable difference I hear is DX200 having a blacker background with a faster and cleaner on/off transient of the notes which could be explained by SNR of Balanced output where DX200 is 124dB vs X7ii is 119dB, according to a spec.
When you compare DX200 and X7ii, there is not a night’n’day difference. Also keep in mind, DX200 cost more (due to more expensive components such as display, 2nd DAC, etc), and in my comparison, I was using AMP3 module which is an additional expense. But from a perspective of technical audio performance, X7ii is close but not exactly on the same level as DX200 w/AMP3. And even if you compare X7ii to DX200 with its default AMP1, I still hear DX200 with a little wider soundstage and blacker background, but the difference is less pronounced than with AMP3. Also, worth mentioning, the original tonality of DX200 w/AMP1 at the time of the release was more revealing. But with the latest FW V2.5.x, DX200 sound has more body and a little smoother and more organic tonality, aligning more with X7ii.
There are a lot of factors that go into comparison when you are trying to determine which DAP to buy, and for some people it might not be purely on sound quality, while for other purists even a marginal improvement will be a deciding factor. Depending on headphones you are using and your hearing level, some might not even hear too much of a difference. Thus, try to determine which pros and cons are more important to you, and if you get a chance – try to audition and to compare both with your favorite music and your own headphones/earphones of preference.
iBasso DX200 on Amazon.
FiiO X7ii on Amazon.