DX120 is an audio only player running iBasso Mango OS. Owners of DX80, DX200, and DX150 (if you installed Lurker’s ROM on 150) will be familiar with Mango, though DX120 introduces an updated version of this native OS. One thing you will notice straight out of the box is how fast and responsive the interface is. As I already mentioned in Design section of the review, this is due to hardware optimization to offload CPU cycles, to have more resources when running UI. The interface is very fast, faster than my previous experience of using Mango OS and Mango app in DX150/200 and DX80 (Mango OS).
After pressing and holding the Power button, main Playback screen comes up in about 10-11 seconds and you are greeted with a familiar playback screen view with top half dedicated to song/album artwork (if one is embedded), and lower half for transport and other controls. Tapping on Artwork area brings up a song/artist/album name and icons for Detailed song info, Add to playlist, or to Delete. In the lower half (upper left corner of it) you have icon for settings shortcuts which brings up a screen with Gapless on/off, Gain low/high, Digital Filter (sharp roll off, slow roll off, short delay sharp roll off, short delay slow roll off, and super slow roll off), a new addition – Sound Mode (reference, traditional, original classical, natural), and USB mode selection (reader, DAC, charge only).
You will also find a more detailed info about the bit depth and sampling rate of the current song, Icon to change Play Mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat). Below that you have a playback scroll bar which I find to have a lot faster response. Typically, in Mango OS you need to touch the current song position pointer and drag it across the bar which previously had a longer response delay. Here, you still can’t randomly tap anywhere along the bar (like in a smartphone audio player), but the delay between tapping and dragging the pointer is minimized and the control is a lot more responsive. At the bottom, you have Play/Skip buttons, and Skip buttons either skip to the next song or fast forward/back if you press/hold them. These playback controls also duplicated with hardware buttons on the right side.
Swiping Main Playback screen to the left reveals Settings menu with Equalizer (10 Band EQ, 33, 63, 100, 330, 630, 1k, 3.3k, 6.3k, 10k, 18k, and 5 customizable Genre presets, and one Custom preset), L/R Balance, Gapless, Gain, Music Info, USB Setting, Play Mode, Digital Filter, Sound Mode, and Advanced setting. Many of these settings are available in shortcut settings menu as I already mentioned. In Advanced, you have selection of Language, Display with brightness and wallpaper, Power management (backlight, auto power, sleep timer), Rescan library (to index songs), System info, and Factory Reset. Btw, if DAP is to crash and DX120 is not responsive, holding Power button for 10sec does a hard reset.
Swiping Main Playback screen to the right reveals My Music menu with Now Playing selection, All Music (lists all the songs across both micro SD cards), Directory (to access each card individually and browse through folders), Album (with two views, list with small artwork thumbs and name next to it or big picture thumbs in 2×3 array), Artist (alphabetical, combined list between two cards), Genre, and Playlist (can have multiple playlist, created, edited, deleted). While browsing, long-pressing on any song brings up a menu with Play, Add to Playlist, Music Info, and Delete.
While the Main Playback screen looks very similar to previous Mango OS version, the My Music and Settings Menu have been updated, making it more clear and easier to navigate on a smaller display of DX120 (relative to DX150/200). Plus, my favorite is Volume animation where you get a lower right corner “dial” with 100 numeric steps and two counter-rotating gears, on each side of the number dial. The only thing I still wish for is being able to swipe the volume up/down using a touch screen. When you are switching between IEMs (especially CIEMs) with different sensitivity and forget to reset the volume, sometimes you need to lower it quickly, and swiping down is the fastest way.
The sound of DX120 was analyzed using U18t and IT04, both balanced terminated, playing a variety of mp3, flac, and dsd test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. As recommended by manufacturer (mostly for the benefit of caps), DX120 went through about 100hrs of burn-in using the included 2.5mm cable while playing random tracks in a loop at high gain with volume set to the max.
I wanted to approach the sound analysis differently with DX120. As I mentioned so many times in my other DAP reviews, the sound you hear is a combination of the source signature, the cable (material and impedance), and IEMs tuning. Here, I’m describing the sound as I hear it listening with 64 Audio U18t and iBasso IT04 IEMs, where I first went through different Sound Modes while keeping digital filter on “sharp roll-off”, and followed it with keeping Sound Mode on “original” while switching between Digital Filters and writing my sound impressions under each setting. Please, keep in mind, the changes are not as drastic, but certainly noticeable to my ears.
Digital Filter: Sharp Roll off, Sound Mode:
Original – close to neutral tuning with a tilt toward a little brighter revealing tonality in upper mids/lower treble and a little more emphasis in low-end impact with a nicely textured extended rumble.
Classical – takes a little edge off the treble, taming down the sparkle a bit, and gives you a feeling like the attack of the notes envelope is a little slower (overall pace of the rhythm is a bit slower).
Natural – in this mode I hear low-end and treble like in the Original, but mids have a slightly different, more “natural” smoother warmer tonality, especially a slightly fuller body in lower mids.
Reference – just like the name says, this mode has a more reference crisper sound, with a faster speed and a little colder tonality.
Traditional – in this mode I hear mids being a little smoother, fuller, and more forward, while treble is slightly smoother too.
Sound Mode: Original, Digital Filters:
Sharp Roll off – as described in Original/Sharp-roll-off sound description.
Slow Roll off – I hear the effect in mids, especially lower mids having a little fuller body which creates a perception of the sound being a little smoother and with a slower attack, and also treble being a bit tamer. This reminds me a little bit of Classical Sound Mode, just more subtle.
Short delay sharp roll off – I went back’n’forth multiple times, comparing this to a regular Sharp Roll off filter, and to my ears I only hear just slightly more rumble in the sub-bass.
Short delay slow roll off – in comparison to Slow Roll off, I still hear mids with a little fuller body, but the bass is a little bit faster now.
Super slow roll off – I hear smoother fuller body of the mids and deeper sub-bass, making the sound a little more lush.
I don’t want people to have an impression that Sound Modes and Digital Filters have a drastic effect on the sound. The effect is more subtle. I had to spend a long time, going back and forth, with U18t and IT04 which I’m intimately familiar with, trying to capture these differences. Also, I found Sound Mode changes to be a little more noticeable in comparison to Digital Filter changes. Furthermore, keep in mind that we all hear things differently, so I don’t expect everybody to note the same changes.
Also, I find the bass to be a little enhanced, but not in terms of boosted quantity, but rather in terms of a presence with more analog texture, deeper extension, and tighter and more layered sound quality.