iBasso DX150 with AMP6, AMP7, and AMP8 modules

DX150 with AMP6, AMP7, and AMP8 amp modules.

Following is a mini-review of the new AMP7 and AMP8 amp modules, along with a comparison of AMP6 to AMP3, AMP5, AMP7, and AMP8.

Intro.

Having a modular design is both a blessing and a curse. Amplifier section of the DAP is one of the critical parts of the path to a headphone output which can either make it or break it the final sound. It can also change the tonality and the sound characteristics, as well as give you access to a balanced output, boost the power, or lower the noise floor while improving SNR. In a traditional DAP you are stuck with a built-in amp section and specific output ports, and if you want to change it, you must use LO to patch in external amp or digital out to connect to external dac/amp. Modular design is an elegant solution to replace the amp section while keeping the same DAP footprint, without a need for an external stack.

So, you can consider that as a blessing, especially since in case of DX150/200 you can upgrade the sound and performance for $200 per module. A curse is when you have more than a few choices and end up splitting hairs, trying to figure out which one to get. I already covered AMP3/4/5 in my separate review here. Now with introduction of AMP7 and AMP8, you have more choices in addition to stock AMP1 (DX200) and stock AMP6 (DX150). With AMP2, AMP4, and AMP4s no longer available, you are down to AMP3, AMP5, AMP7, and AMP8 as your optional amps to consider for upgrade. It’s still a lot of choices, but you need to consider your headphone termination, 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm BAL, or 4.4mm BAL, and if you do or don’t require LO, because some of these amps have big internal caps and not enough room for LO port.

AMP design/spec.

Just as a preface, AMP7 and AMP8 are the latest offerings from iBasso and they implement a new discrete circuit design with both high voltage and high current output. Both amps offer +/-8V high voltage swing which should improve the dynamics of output, and high output current of up to 2700mA to benefit low impedance multi BA/hybrid IEMs. This is an impressive spec, and to achieve this high voltage and current while still maintaining low output impedance, iBasso had to use discrete components, typical of desktop amp design.

As a quick summary of each available amp card:

AMP7 discrete single ended amplifier card

  • 3.5mm SE: 3.2Vrms, S/N 122dB, output impedance 0.3ohm
  • 3.5mm SE HO and LO

AMP8 discrete balanced amplifier card with Pentaconn 4.4mm port

  • 4.4mm BAL: 6.2Vrms, S/N 125dB, output impedance 0.38ohm
  • 4.4mm BAL HO only

AMP3 high voltage swing balanced amp card

  • 2.5mm BAL: 6Vrms, S/N 124dB
  • 2.5mm BAL HO and LO

AMP5 high voltage swing single ended amp card

  • 3.5mm SE: 3.2Vrms, S/N 121dB
  • 3.5mm SE HO and LO

AMP6 (stock DX150 amp)

  • 2.5mm BAL: 4.8Vrms, S/N 118dB
  • 3.5mm SE: 2.4Vrms, S/N 117dB
  • 3.5mm SE HO and LO, 2.5mm BAL HO

AMP1 (stock DX200 amp)

  • 2.5mm BAL: 6Vrms, S/N 125dB
  • 3.5mm SE: 3Vrms, S/N 122dB
  • 3.5mm SE HO and LO, 2.5mm BAL HO

AMP comparison.

Since this is DX150 review, the following comparison will focus on sound changes I hear going from a stock AMP6 to other amp modules. I also included a comparison between AMP7 and AMP8, since I received a lot of questions about it. All my sound impressions were collected using iBasso IT04, 64 Audio U18t, and Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd gen headphones. Due to a difference in output power, I tried to volume match as close as possible in every comparison. Also, please keeping in mind this is how I hear the difference, so it’s my subjective opinion.

AMP6 -> AMP7: the same volume level between SE outputs, wider soundstage (SE of 7 is even a touch wider than BAL of 6), blacker background, a little more transparency and slightly better layering in 7, and 7 is a touch brighter and a little more revealing in comp to 6.

AMP6 -> AMP8: the same volume level between BAL outputs, wider soundstage, more transparency, tighter bass with a bigger impact, a little more treble sparkle, improvement in layering and dynamics, blacker background, the sound has a little more body and more revealing in comparison.

AMP7 -> AMP8: 8 has more power, needs less volume (SE vs BAL outputs), 8 has a little wider soundstage, bass has a little more impact, tonality is very similar but overall sound of 8 is tighter, has blacker background and improved dynamics.

AMP6 -> AMP3: very similar performance and tonality, perhaps 3 having slightly better dynamic range expansion. Actually, with 3 having a lot better S/N spec, I expected a bigger difference but 6 performed very close.

AMP6 -> AMP5: again, despite a difference in S/N spec, the performance is not too far off, especially when comparing 5 to 6 SE, though 5 has a fuller body with a little warmer tonality. The difference is more obvious when comparing 5 to 6 BAL which is a little brighter in comparison to 5 SE.

Bonus comparison.

DX200: AMP4 vs AMP8 – soundstage is nearly identical. Also, mids and treble are very similar, the noticeable difference is in low-end where amp8 bass has a little stronger punch with a deeper extension, giving the sound a little more body, while in overall comparison amp4 has a little better layering of the sounds.

ibasso_dx150-26

Page 4: Comparison, and Pair up.

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

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36 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

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  7. hello twister6.
    I have read a lot of your reviews, I highly appreciate your reviews, I bought many of the devices based on your reviews. Thank you.
    i have a question want to get your help, i am using ibasso it04 headset, am looking at dx150, cayin n5iis or dx200. Can you point me to the right path. cayin n5iis, it04 + d150 + amp8 or dx200 + amp1 i up pick which pair.
    thank you.

    Like

    1. d150/amp8 vs dx200/amp1 – I would go for d150 with amp8 because it’s a great combo, and I like amp8 more than amp1. Ideally, dx200 + amp8 would be the best, but I see you are sticking to a budget 😉 N5iis is great, but brighter and I like a more natural synergy of dx150 with it04 in that pair up. Plus DX gives you flexibility of amp upgrade and you have full open android when install lurker’s ROM. Apps run smoother on DX than N5iiS.

      Like

  8. Hi Twister 6, love your reviews and the passion you transmit!
    Question: Opus#2 or DX200 Amp 4, 8? I’m in my final hour choices, and would love your opinion…

    Like

    1. DX200 w/amp8 will give you a better sound and a better value and more flexibility. You will need to flash it with lurker’s free rom to get Google play, but it’s much better than opus sideloading solution.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for the fast reply!
        While you’re here, one last one:
        I’m interested almost exclusively in sound quality and a good looking dap, to drive a CA Atlas while on the move. Was also considering the LP6, still within budget.
        Is the DX200 hardware still a winner, considering the flexibility of “modernizing” the sound through amp8, as opposed to the embedded, fixed quality of the others?

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      2. You probably meant L6, cause LP6 will have r2r dac and cost 2x. I don’t hace atlas, don’t know how it sounds, assuming probably like Vega. L6 is not the best choice due to high output impedance and cave age interface lol! For under $1.5k you have DX200 and Plenue 2mk2. DX200 is a better value cause you get a lot of features.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It all depends on which way you want to go with dt1990 tonality. To my ears these Beyers are a bit too crisp in upper frequencies, and if you want to warm up the sound – amp5 would be the choice. If you want to squeeze out max performance with more transparency and resolution, which can also make things a little crisper, then either amp7 or amp8, depending on your cable termination.

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  9. I have a n5ii, and am looking to take the next step. My my earphone is the very good CIEM RSM from Alclair (neutral with a hint of smoothness, decent punch). Looking to increase dynamics, soundstage and detail. I was thinking of just going with the n5iis, but it seems like the Dx200 would be the bigger upgrade, especially with amp8. Would you concur? Thanks!

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    1. I concur 🙂 But wait a few more weeks, DX220 is almost here. Let’s see what it brings to the table and how much it will cost. Plus, with a release of a new DX220, you can probably get a really good deal on second hand DX200 😉

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      1. and the DX220 is looking interesting. And now Cayin is throwing the N6ii into the ring. I must now engage in the most difficult act in the world of audiophilia… waiting. I look forward to reading your reviews!

        Like

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