iBasso DX150 with AMP6, AMP7, and AMP8 modules

Is this supposed to be mid-fi?

PROS: many similarities with a flagship DX200, modular amp design (shares modules with DX200), price/performance ratio.

CONS: need to install Lurker’s free ROM to get access to Google Play, otherwise apps are side-loaded.

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

Manufacturer website: iBasso, available for Sale on Amazon.

For the reference, my DX200 review and the review of AMP3/4/5 modules.


Intro.

It’s not the first time I mentioned that before there used to be a clear line between entry level, mid-fi, and summit-fi DAPs, separated by sound performance, supported features, and the price. Today, these lines are blurred where some entry level models have more features than upper tier ones, the sound performance difference is not that drastic, and the price gap varies. You can’t stop the flood of new releases, which makes it harder for consumers to narrow down their choices, and doesn’t make it easy on reviewers when people ask for recommendations.

But one thing hasn’t changed, many audio enthusiasts are still looking for the gear with the best price/performance ratio, and iBasso’s latest DX150 certainly hits the target. Plus, this DAP keeps a lot of the original DX200 functionality and design cues, including a modular amp design, at a fraction of the price. Along with DX150 and its new stock AMP6, my review will also cover their newly released AMP7 and AMP8 (and comparison to AMP6, along with AMP3 and AMP5) since every amp module is fully compatible with DX150 and DX200. So, without further ado, let’s proceed!

Unboxing and Accessories.

In comparison to DX200 with a more dramatic diagonal-split box, here you will find a more traditional top-cover packaging box, still with a secure foam-fitting cutout, and exterior silver sleeve with a multi-language spec on the back. It’s understandable that you need to distinguish unboxing experience from a premium flagship model, though you still get quite a similar feeling when unboxing either one.

Accessories include a high-quality premium braided-sleeve USB-C charging/data cable, short Coax cable, and Balanced burn-in cable with a load (for a “quiet” burn-in so you don’t have to use your headphones). Also, included was a suede leather case, similar in design to DX200 case, but a little thicker in comparison.

Stock case.

As a replacement alternative, MITER offers a leather case for DX200/DX150, and to my pleasant surprise it comes without their signature kickstand, keeping it slim while still offering an enhanced grip, scratch protection, and covered imprinted playback control buttons.

Design and Under the hood.

From the first look it’s clear that DX150 design was based on their DX200 flagship. It has nearly identical dimensions of 128.5mm x 69mm x 19.5mm, and almost the same weight of 245g (DX200 is 240g). You’ll also find the same layout with a large 4.2” 768×1280 resolution display on the front with a removable amp module underneath on the back. SPDIF digital transport port is still on the top (supporting both coax and optical mini toslink), next to it is USB-C port and a power button in the corner inside of the guard bar that wraps around upper right corner where you have a volume wheel on the side and hw playback Play/Pause/Skip buttons going down. The only difference here is a volume wheel being open while DX200 has a guard bar over it, and the wheel itself having deeper notches for a better grip when turning it with a thumb. Another difference is a display being nearly flush with chassis vs DX200 having a raised display. You will still find a single uSD card on the left side, while ports on the bottom will correspond to a specific AMP module in use.

I know some might not find these “cosmetic” changes to be as significant, especially when DAP is inside the case, but I personally feel that it refines the original DX200 design and gives it a slicker look when out of the case. Also, it gives an easier access to the volume wheel. Of course, all is a matter of a personal preference, and as a matter of fact the limited edition DX200Ti version also implemented a design change where the display is flush with chassis.

Under the hood you will also find many similarities, and a few significant changes. You still have Android 6.0, and the stock sw still requires side-loading apps, though Lurker’s free ROM takes care of that by enabling Google Play and adding some other extra features and optimizations (more details in GUI section of the review).   You’re still running on 64bit 8 cores A53 CPU, with 2G LPDDR3 RAM, single uSD, and USB DAC using XMOS XU208 chipset. Still have 802.11 (b/g/n/ac) WiFi, but according to iBasso now supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. And still have Bluetooth 4.1, though without aptX support (at least for now). And as it was mentioned already, the same 4.2” Retina display with 768×1280 resolution.

Even 3.8V 4400mAh battery is the same, though battery life was improved due to a different DAC and other optimizations. For example, I can get solid 11hrs of mp3 playback using IT04, connected to BAL HO of AMP6 in Low Gain with volume set to 65/150. When I switch to AMP7, using another IEM with a lower sensitivity (Tin T2, 102dB) in Low Gain with a volume set to 92/150, I can get 10hrs of playback. I’m sure going to AMP8 with its balanced output and higher power will reduce it probably by another hour (per my experience with DX200).

So, what are the other changes? Internal storage is down to 32GB from 64GB in DX200, and there is a new system clock architecture, fully synchronized with TXCO and PLL which supposed to make switching between different clock rates more seamless. Also, a big plus, introduction of PD2.0 quick charger which is compatible with QC2.0 standard, meaning faster charging time when you are using QC2.0 compatible chargers. But the biggest change is stepping down from dual ES9028Pro DAC (DX200) to a dual AK4490EQ DAC (DX150). This change is the key behind a difference in sound signature and performance between these DAPs. AK4490EQ is still a very capable DAC, able to support PCM with sampling rate of 8kHz-384kHz (with 8-32bit depth) native, and DSD64/128/256. But it’s not on a flagship level like 9028Pro which can handle up to DSD512, among other differences.

There is no doubt that DX200 is iBasso’s flagship DAP, and DX150 is a scaled down version which can’t sound the same or better. But if you add up all the changes and analyze all the pros/cons, plus consider that it’s still based on a modular design with interchangeable amps, iBasso DX150 is not too far off, meaning they didn’t cut too many corners while actually did cut the price.

Page 2: GUI/Lurker’s fw, Sound Analysis.

Page 3: AMP6 vs AMP3, AMP5, AMP7, and AMP8.

Page 4: Comparison, and Pair up.

Page 5: External wired/wireless connections, and Conclusion.

15 thoughts on “iBasso DX150 with AMP6, AMP7, and AMP8 modules

  1. Thanks for the excellent preview as always. I now find the choice of amp modules confusing. Do you think there is too much choice?

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    1. With a current selection, it’s easier to pick. Just figure out what ports you need first, based on your headphones termination. That’s a good start to make life easier.

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  2. Is the discrete circuit used in AMP7 & 8, that offers high voltage and high current outputs, anything like the SATRI circuit used in Bakoon amps?

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      1. Not quite sure about your question. $200 for which amp module? I would stay, don’t buy any new amp modules untill you spend some time with a stock amp6, to get to know its sound better. If you have balanced cables and don’t care about LineOut, you can upgrade to amp8 (4.4mm, which you can use with an adaptor from 2.5mm). It’s not amps but DX150 which is a good investment because you can upgrade its amp module later.

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  3. Excellent information and thanks for all the effort that went into it. It may also interest some to know stuff that I hardly see reported – e.g. I chose the DX150 to succeed my trusty Cowon X7 as it’s one of the few DAPS that can do all of the below:
    – handle m3u playlists with ease
    – display size shows longer file/track names readable by me in a hurry while hunting alphabetically (my eyes are getting older, large clear display is becoming a must!).
    – can be set (with Neutron or JetAudio) to play one track and stop… As I use these devices to play backing tracks for choir performances, we need to be able to cue the next track manually, not have the player dictate the timing.
    The Cowon is still kicking buut will die one day, the DX150 is waiting. Only negative is it doesn’t have anywhere near the battery life of the Cowon X7, but then again, there’s nothing much on the market – let alone suitable – that does.

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    1. not familiar with Cowon X7, but WM1Z can get your 30hrs of battery time. But in general, the average battery life on most of flagship daps is around 10hrs +/- an hour.

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      1. Thanks Twister, the WM1Z is way too pricey for my needs… The Cowon “iAudio X7” was released way back around 2010, it was the flasgship before the “Plenue” series, with 100 hrs battery, 120/160Gb HDD, resistive touch screen and less than $700 here in Aus (it was a step up from their X5 which was a fantastic alternative to the iPod released way back when A&K was still iRiver)…. The X7 is still my player of choice for our choir performances through portable PA Gear due to the large display and battery life…

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  4. I s there a foolproof way to install lurkers firmware? on windows 10 please I have tried and tried and tried and I failed and failed and failed

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  5. I have the DX200 with amp3 and use my Beyerdynamic T5p ii which I feel is a great combo. I am thinking of getting noise canceling headphones. I am more interested it best sound quality as opposed to best noise canceling so I have been looking and Sennheiser HD1 or the wireless HD2. If I got the HD1 I would need the amp7, but then I would not be able to use T5ps. Does the iBasso DX200 use the aptx bluetooth and if yes or no would sound be a big downgrade compared to HD1 and DX200 with amp7?

    My objective is to be able to travel with both headphones, the T5p ii for serious listening and the Sennheiser HD1 or 2 for on the plane.

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    1. i can never keep up with Senns wireless headphones, wireless HD1 on-ear, in-ear, over-year, Momentum, noise canceling, etc… I have their Momentum Wireless ANC from 2 years ago and really enjoy it, ONLY use it wireless, don’t even bother wired. Why do you need another amp to use them? Even wired they should be fine with the amp you have already, despite their high impedance. DX200 doesn’t have aptX. Btw, don’t think they have HD2, I can’t even find it searching. So, I think you should be fine with the amp you have and both headphones.

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  6. Hi,

    thanks for the great review.
    Just one question. I am about to use DX150 with Andromeda. And you wrote comparing AMP7 -> AMP8: that 8 has blacker background … and then in pair-up section for Andromeda ” I tried AMP8, but hissing was too strong,…AMP7 pair was excellent, lifting some veil off.” So I just wandering which of those two produces less hiss. Thanks

    Like

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