iBasso AMP3, AMP4, and AMP5 modules for DX200

Take your DX200 to the next level!

PROS: ability to finetune the sound and the output power of DX200, modular design that integrates without a need for a stack up, different connector options.

CONS: additional cost, higher voltage/power modules reduce battery life.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Links: iBasso AMP3, AMP4, AMP5, CA01, CA02, for Sale on iBasso site and Penon Audio.


Intro.

Picking a DAP could be a daunting task due to so many available choices. I’m sure many can breathe a sign of relief when they finally narrow it down to one. But if your final choice is iBasso’s latest flagship DX200, the search doesn’t stop there because now you have more available options with additional amps, thanks to its modular design.

Considering how many audiophiles buy DAPs with different sound sigs and various portable external amps to color the sound and to boost output power, the modular design is a cost effective and a space saving solution where you don’t have to worry about a bulky stack up with interconnect cables since these iBasso amps integrate seamless with DX200 chassis.

By default, DX200 comes with AMP1 module, AMP2 module was released not too long ago, and now we have a choice of additional AMP3, AMP4, and AMP5 amplifier modules, each with its own unique sound characteristic and different connector options. So, let take a closer look to find out more.

ibasso_dx200_amp345-x05

Unboxing & Accessories.

Even though we are talking about a relatively small module, iBasso still had a sturdy compact cardboard packaging box with a soft foam insert where the AMP module was secured inside of a cutout. While in some cases I found packaging to be irrelevant after unboxing, here it becomes very useful for storage of the module you are replacing. Make sure you don’t throw it away because it’ll come in handy later.

You will also find a warranty and an instruction cards, along with a small flat-head screwdriver required to remove/replace the amp module. Keep it handy because such narrow head screwdriver is not very common. Also, it fits well inside of the packaging box along with a replaced amp module.

ibasso_amp2_cb13-03

Optional CA01/CA02 adapter accessories.

When you’re dealing with various amp modules that have 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm headphone sockets, you do face a problem with various cable connections. Instead of buying multiple cables with different terminations to accommodate all these balanced and single ended ports, it makes sense to get 2.5mm TRRS balanced cable and adapters to go from 2.5mm to 3.5mm and 4.4mm. Since iBasso already released their own CB12 and CB13 cables, terminated with 2.5mm TRRS, it was only a matter of time before they release adapters to go along with it.

I don’t often spend too much time talking about optional accessories, but made an exception in this case because iBasso now offers high quality 3.5mm and 4.4mm adapters at a very low price of $15 each. And even at such low price, each adapter still arrived in a very nice packaging case.

Unboxing CA01 and CA02.

CA01 is 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter with a short interconnect cable (4 braided conductors) that uses high purity copper, the same wire used in their new IT01 iems. Both, male 3.5mm TRS and female 2.5mm TRRS, connector sides have a custom aluminum housing, good grip, tight secure fit, and solid build quality. CA02 is 2.5mm to 4.4mm extension adapter, meaning a single piece connector adapter which extends your cable’s 2.5mm termination into pentaconn 4.4mm. Also, it has an excellent grip, tight fit, beautiful gold tone, and carbon fiber decorative inlay.

While some people only look at the adapter from a functional perspective, many forget that it could affect the sound quality, and if you think all adapters sound the same – think again! Both CA01 and CA02 offer a high level of sound transparency which I usually associate with adapters that cost 4-5 times as much. I have many 2.5mm to 3.5mm/4.4mm adapters, ranging in price from $10 to $150, and some of them degrade the sound quality due to poor selection of material and solder. CA01 and CA02 perform on par with some of the top end selections in my review collection.

Design of CA01.

Design of CA02.

Design and Spec.

Because we are dealing with an interchangeable modular design, the dimensions and the fit of new AMP3/4/5 modules is identical to a stock AMP1. And in a similar fashion, these modules slide in at the bottom of DX200 and stay behind the display, hidden from the front where the joint seam is only visible from the back and the sides. With two latches and a pair of screws on each side going into these latches, the module attachment is very secure. As a suggestion, when loosening up the screws, don’t remove them all the way, just far enough to slide the module out. The screws are very small, these are set screws without heads, and easy to lose. Thus, try not to remove them completely.

The design/spec summary of these amp modules is as following:

AMP3 – 2.5mm TRRS, 6.0Vrms, 124dB SNR, play time 7.5hrs, BAL HO + BAL LO

  • high voltage swing (+/-8V)
  • balanced architecture
  • design topology utilizing voltage and current feedback
  • optimized for both high voltage and high current demanding monitors

AMP4 – 4.4mm TRRRS, 6.2Vrms, 124dB SNR, play time 7.5hrs, BAL HO, No LO.

  • high voltage swing (+/-8V)
  • balanced architecture
  • design topology utilizing voltage and current feedback
  • optimized for both high voltage and high current demanding monitors
  • design is based on AMP3, but with an optimized layout, including shorter traces
  • 4.4mm connector with larger contact points/lower contact resistance

AMP5 – 3.5mm TRS, 3.2Vrms, 121dB SNR, play time 9-10hrs, SE HO + LO

  • high voltage swing (+/-8V)
  • design topology utilizing voltage and current feedback
  • optimized for high voltage and high current demanding monitors, but with lower current consumption to improve battery play time
  • optimized SE circuit with higher SNR to improve transient response

As one can see from these specs, depending on priority of personal requirements you have different options. For example, AMP5 looks like a clear upgrade from AMP2 and has the best battery life performance based on the optimization of its single ended design. Plus, you still get 3.5mm LO if you want to pair up DX200 with an external amp. AMP3 and AMP4 do share a design, though there are differences in the sound as you will find out from my sound analysis section. You can take advantage of 4.4mm connector with AMP4, but at the expense of losing LO port. Or you can stay with AMP3 which has both balanced 2.5mm HO and LO, though you have to realize that high voltage and high current design comes at the expense of a reduced battery life.

But, besides headphone connector preferences where you should take into account CA01 and CA02 adapters, many will treat these AMP modules as a black box and will care mostly about their sound performance and pair up with different headphones.

Page 2: Sound analysis and Conclusion.

32 thoughts on “iBasso AMP3, AMP4, and AMP5 modules for DX200

  1. Hi I have balanced 250 ohm dt770 ,I may purchase new headphones
    Still running amp1 module ,I like my base to be reading tight and fast
    This I pickup on and follow throughout a song but do like a wide soundstage ,looking at amp3 or amp5 ,which one is more musical but still not too warm to distort from ref sound
    Which should I go for ,any help would be appreciated.
    Regards Ateeq

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  2. Hi Twister! Thanks for this excellent review. I have a DX200 with AMP1 only at present, and am looking into getting a T5P Gen 2 and an amp which can bring about a better, wider soundstage. I tested the T5P some time ago with the Mojo and didn’t like it, the sound felt somewhat congested a bit too warm. Do you think that AMP4 would be a good choice for ‘wider’ sound? I listen almost exclusively to classical music, mostly orchestral and acoustic jazz. Also, on a side note: do you know if the Dekoni Beyer pads fit the T5Ps fine?

    Many thanks!

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    1. Mojo has a warmer tonality, maybe not the best pair up for what you are looking for. Amp4 is my favorite amp for T5p2. Not familiar with dekoni earpads, sorry. I’m using mrspeaker alpha pads with mine. They do fit over earcups, though doesn’t look as “clean”. Gives better isolation, more comfort, and improved bass impact.

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      1. Great, thanks for your thoughts! My problem with the stock pads is that they provoked irritation on the skin around my ears, so I am looking for real leather pads that do the trick – would you recommend the Alpha pads over everything else? I don’t want the sound to “thicken” or become overly bassy…

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      2. I got a bunch of pads for T5p2, many from ebay, mostly cheap quality. I like alpha pads the bets. Plus, many just don’t fit T5p2 right. The sound will not thicken. Just gets a little more body, especially good for the music genre you are listening to.

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  3. Which amp module would you recommend for the it03 ?.I was thinking amp3 but I like what you wrote about amp5. Problem is all my cables are 2.5m balanced now so it’s got me thinking a little bit .

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    1. Yeah, I prefer amp5 with it, to tame down upper frequencies. Stock it03 cable is OK, and it’s 3.5mm 😉 Otherwise, why not get iBasso CA01 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter, I think it’s $15, and very high quality.

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  4. I interested to purchase DX200 to be paired with Noble K10U. Which Amp version will be the best for k10u? Currently I listened with chord mojo and quite happy with the sound quality. Will dx200 upgrade the Sq than using mojo?

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    1. I wouldn’t rush with an amp upgrade. First, buy DX200 and spend some time listening to k10u with a stock amp. See what you like or dislike about it. Then, try to figure out the upgrade 😉 Personally, I would go with Amp5 for k10u, but that’s my sound preference.

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  5. Hi Twister,

    What amp should you recommend with the Dita Dream.
    The Dream has a great, no superb bass, but the mids and treble could have a bit more authority and slightly more warm.
    With the Dita – Awesome Cable I can use both 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced.

    Anton

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    1. if you want a smoother sound (smoother treble), go for amp5. Otherwise, amp4 is the best, too bad it’s discontinued 😦 amp4s is nice, but not on the same level as amp4, more like a smoother version of amp4, closer to amp5.

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  6. Hi twister,
    Thank you for your review.
    I have a DX150 with its AMP6 + IT03.

    Which amp would be better, amp5 or amp4, or maybe different one ?

    Thank you so much in advance !!

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    1. Either one is good, but you are dealing with different connectors now, will have to upgrade the cable. I really like AMP7 witb dx150 now. And that one is 3.5mm. Amp5 is good too. All is up to a personal sound preference, but AMP7 does scale up Amp6 performance.

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  7. Hey Twister,

    I’m using B&W P9s with the DX200+Amp1. This is a great pairing, but I’m interested in the amps. Looking at amp5 or 7. Any thoughts on what these would give me? Worth the investment? I’m stuck with single end on the P9s, which I have no problem with.

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    1. both amp5 and amp7 will give the sound more body and should improve the low end response relative to amp1 (not familiar with P9, though I do have P7). The difference between amp5 and amp7 is that 5 will be warmer and smoother, while 7 will be more detailed and resolving. I think amp7 will pair up better.

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