iBasso DX120

A pocket-friendly audio powerhouse.

PROS: dual micro-SD storage, powerful balanced output, very responsive [Mango] touch interface, wide soundstage, resolving tonality with quality bass, price/performance ratio.

CONS: audio playback only (no BT or wifi), full case would be nice.

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 directly from manufacturer or Penon Audio.


While a support of streaming apps has been an important requirement for some audio enthusiasts looking to purchase a new DAP, I’m noticing a new wave of people who prefer “less is more”.  Being a jack of all trades raises the value of the product, but lately I have seen more of my readers looking for a source which is a master of one, simplified down to “less”, offering “more” with just a function of audio playback.  And for many, this is not necessary a replacement of their other swiss-army knife DAPs that do everything, but rather a sidekick alternative in a more compact footprint.

A few manufacturers already recognized this demand, with a lot of recent $100-$350 DAP releases, including the latest iBasso DX120 which some might consider as a replacement of DX80.  While we have been spoiled by DX200 flagship and its more budget-friendly little brother DX150, both with Android, Google Play, Bluetooth, and modular amp design, iBasso now ready to complement it with a more simplified yet still powerful audio playback only compact DX120, with a dual micro SD card, balanced output, and all new optimized Mango OS.  Here is more about it.

Unboxing and Accessories.

Regardless if it’s a flagship or an entry level budget product, many companies like to make a nice first impression with packaging, and iBasso is no exception.  Maybe it’s a fetish, but I like the soft touch of the material used in iBasso packaging sleeves and boxes, certainly feels different to the touch.  As usual, inside you will find a foam tray with a secure cutout for DX120, and a box with accessories, including a premium braided-sleeve usb-c cable, coax cable, burn-in 2.5mm cable, transparent grip-case, tempered grass, quick start guide, and a warranty card.

It’s the same short durable coax cable you find with other iBasso DAPs, and the same balanced burn-in cable which is extremely useful for a quiet burn-in without the need to blast your headphones loud.  But the transparent grip-case wasn’t my favorite.  This “case” goes around the perimeter, covering the top, bottom, and sides while leaving the back panel open.  It feels plasticy and I wish the back of it would extend a little further so the glass panel of DX120 (already with a “screen” protector, btw) would have a better protection, maybe even covering the whole back and using a softer silicone transparent material.  DX120 is very compact and has a nice design ergonomics with a contour sides for a better grip.  But I still like the security of enhanced grip, and already mentioned this to MITER guys, to see if they can come up with a leather case for it.  Will update this section if they do.

I have complained about the included stock “grip-case”, and did mention to MITER guys about my wish for DX120 leather case.  And they came through with one available for sale already on Amazon.  This is exactly what I was hoping and looking for, a soft slim leather case to enhance the grip of DX120.  As usual, MITER case comes in a nice gift box with a case in a protective sleeve.

Case itself comes in blue and black colors, soft to the touch leather with a soft inner felt lining to make sure DX120 doesn’t scratch inside.

The fit is like a glove.  All the buttons are covered and have a functionality imprint so you can feel it better when sliding your finger.  Top is fully open with access to coax, usb-c, and dual micro-SD cards, and the bottom have generous opening for all 3 ports.  As a matter of fact, the unit I received was a prototype while MITER updated the production part with a large common opening between 3.5mm and 2.5mm headphone outputs to make sure there are no issues with 2.5mm balance plugs (the last picture below has the view of the final case design).  Also, no magnetic kick-stand is used on the back since it’s not necessary in this case.


I jumped on the iBasso bandwagon back when I first reviewed DX80, thus I’m not familiar with DX50/90/100, only DX80/150/200.  Next to these, the DX120 is their smallest DAP in the lineup.  With dimensions of 63mm x 113mm x 15mm and the weight of 165g, DX120 fits very comfortably in my hand, and the extra heft of CNC aluminum chassis gives it a nice balanced feeling.  The front of DX120 is occupied by a 3.2” 480×800 IPS touch screen with a good viewing angle and a decent color contrast.  Unlike some other plain-looking touch screen rectangular DAPs, DX120 has a less boring look with nice ergonomics.

In addition to beveled edges and a longer slope beveled extension at the bottom, the sides have a visible concaved contour for a more secure and comfortable grip.  Chassis is made of CNC aluminum, available in two finishes, sky-blue and earth-brown, and the back has all glass flat panel, interesting choice considering iBasso doesn’t have to worry about covering BT or wifi antennas, probably to make it look more premium.  The bottom of the DAP has a dedicated 3.5mm LO and 3.5mm HO, both ports have an identical connector with an outer gold plating, and 2.5mm balanced port next to it.  If you are frequent to using 3.5mm terminated headphones, maybe a good idea to cover LO port with a dust plug so you don’t confuse it with HO port.

Top of the DAP has 3.5mm S/PDIF digital COAX port (to use DX120 as a transport), dual micro-SD card slot (in theory, each card could support up to 2TB, while now you can use 512GB in each slot), and usb-C port for charging, data transfer, and USB DAC connection.  Charging is controlled by TI BQ25890 MaxCharge power management chip, allowing Qualcomm Quick Charge QC2.0 and MTK-PE, meaning you can use 12V, 9V/1.5A wall charger to charge its 3.8V 3700 mAh LiPo battery in 2hrs to enjoy max playback of up to 16hrs (based on screen off, mp3 continuous play), which should be lower when playing higher res files.  With XMOS standard XU208 and Thesycon USB driver support, you also get USB DAC functionality.

Left/right sides of the DAP have a symmetrical wavy line.  While left side has no controls, everything is placed on the right side.  You can hold the DAP in either left or right hand, but for a more comfortable access to controls I preferred a right hand so I can use my thumb.  There are total of 6 buttons on the right side, all aligned along the wavy line, making the design less boring.  A smaller power button is at the top, further away from other controls, followed by two larger Volume buttons and then a cluster of 3 smaller transport controls (Play and Skip Next/Forward).  Buttons are plastic, and I wish they would have a better identification to feel them blindly, like a bump on Vol+ and a bigger bump on Play button (it has one already).  It’s a small DAP and you have 6 buttons close to each other with not a lot of spacing in between, but the fact that iBasso used different size for Volume and didn’t line them up in a straight line – helps when controlling the DAP.

Under the hood.

In the heart of DX120 you have AK4495EQ DAC which surprised me with its tonality since I expected performance closer to 4490, while it was leaning more toward ES9028 type of sound.  The unit also features multi-core CPU with a dedicated implementation of GPU to control UI, lowering the CPU load.  And for further optimization, DX120 uses Direct Memory Access (DMA) for a more efficient CPU operation.  These are not just words, DX120 has the fastest and the most responsive Mango OS out of DX80/150/200.  With more dedicated CPU cycles, there is no issues processing supported PCM (sampling rates from 8kHz to 384kHz at 8-32bit depth) and native DSD up to 128 (tested both 64 and 128 without a problem).  I didn’t find any noticeable lag while switching between screens and songs.  In my review unit, switching between mp3 and flac files is instantaneous, going up to DSD64/128 from a flac has maybe a second or so delay (no different than some other DAPs), but then back to flac was instantaneous again.  Gapless playback was perfect, and I was also able to read CUE files without a problem.

I don’t know which differential op amps iBasso used, but we are talking about a very powerful output for a compact DAP with BAL 2.5mm Headphone pushing 3.6Vrms (about 400mW into 32ohm load) and 117dB SNR.  Single Ended SE 3.5mm Headphone output is less powerful at 1.8Vrms (about 100mW into 32ohm load) and 115dB SNR, more appropriate for sensitive IEMs.  Both outputs are low impedance, under 0.38 ohms.   Personally, I preferred BAL high-gain output for all my iems and headphones, to my ears the extra power adds a little more finesse to the sound, but you should be aware, high power output will contribute some hissing to lower impedance and/or higher sensitivity IEMs.  It’s a trade-off when dealing with a powerful output DAP, and for those who find it to be an issue with sensitive low impedance IEMs, I recommend looking into iEMatch from iFi, available in both 2.5mm and 3.5mm versions.  At the same time, I noticed that some sensitive IEMs also exhibited a low level of hissing from SE output too, but I only hear it when I drop the volume down to zero and push Play.  I’m not splitting hairs here, just reporting what I hear.

Page 2 – GUI, Sound Analysis.

Page 3: Comparison, Pair Up, External Connections, and Conclusion.


44 thoughts on “iBasso DX120

  1. Too bad you could not compare to DX90. I’m very interested in the DX120 vs DX90 because of the balanced output.. I own IT03 and I am curious to know if you have tested balanced output with iT03.


    1. Sorry, don’t have dx90. I will swap the cable on IT03 to test balanced when I get a chance, but we are talking about higher power/voltage output and I suspect some improvement in bass response. Otherwise, it’s the same signature.


  2. Great review, many thanks. How about comprasion DX120 to Fiio X5-II, which still is on sale through Fiio’s aliexpress store for these same 300 bucks? Would be profit in SQ or not? Without considering usability. Thanks in advance!


    1. i haven’t listened to X5ii in a long time, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that dx120 will be higher in sound quality. No comparison here, especially since they cost the same, go for dx120.


      1. Thanks a lot Alex, I think it’s time to sell my X5II and other stuff to take the Ibasso Dx120. Thanks for the review and comparisons.


    1. Directly connected, DX120 + Andro = hissing, R6 + Andro = change of sound due to high out impedance. So, need iematch either way 😉 For Andro, chose the DAP based on the features you need.


    1. it supports usb DAC from computer, but I can’t try usb OTG connection from a smartphone since I don’t have usb-c to usb-c otg cable, and iBasso is not mentioning it either. So, let’s assume it doesn’t.


  3. Dear Mr. Twister,
    Thanks for the review. May I trouble you with a query. I have quite a bit of gear – Chord Mojo, Ifi BL, Fostex HPV1, etc – I also have a couple of XDP-100r DAPs, which I always found rather lacking in sound. I’d like to either transfer the 4 sd cards to another DAP or DAC/AMP the existing DAPs up. Here’s my question, between the following which has the better SQ:
    1. Fiio Q5 w/AM5 module.
    2. Fiio X7 II
    3. Opus 3
    4. Hiby R6
    5. Ifi xDSD
    User interface is not terribly important to me, what’s important is a full-bodied rich and “natural” sound with good detail and resolution, ability to achieve good sub-bass, and extend sound-stage.
    The Chord Mojo/Fostex HPV1 combo to me is superb, but I’d like something more portable/stackable either through adding to the XDP-100r units or going with a new DAP. I tend to use Audioquest Nightowl, Aurisonic Rockets, or DT770 250ohm when on the go.
    Thanks kindly.


    1. xdp-100r lacking in sound… lol. Its single end is better in sq than x7 and R6. The fact that it has little bit brighter and lighter sound signature doesnt make it lacking in sound. Separation, lot of air and great soundstage are something that defines this player. And I dont have it. Just had an oportunity to test it. Great sound.


    1. I’m glad you added dx150 to the list, cause that is it! 😉 I’m not familiar with Q5 but that should be on par with X7ii which has a thinner more reference sound. And iDSD micro BL is not portable. Dx150 will be the best solution for you not only because its default sound sig with included Amp6 module covers your sound preference, but also because you can scale up and upgrade the sound with other amp modules and can add more power if you need to. See, instead of stacking up another amp, you just use another replaceable module. And ibasso is working on more modules. So, definitely look into that one.


  4. Thanks for your enlightening review.
    I am particularly interested in keeping a large library on a mobile set. Does the DX120 handle files on 2 different sd cards in the two cardslots as one library?
    Can i listen to shuffle mode to all files from both cardslots or am i restricted to one card at a time?


  5. Personally i was very disappointed with the sound. I can why superficially, on the surface it sounds good but when I dug deeper I found it to be quite poorly tuned and unbalanced at best. The highs are too clean and pure & sparkly so it seems like they are really ‘good’ The soundstage certainly separated out instruments quite cleanly but I often found the places the player put them in was just weird. Un-natural. Certainly they created a sound stage like no other player. The mids are then recessed / over shadowed. The mids themselves I found dry with no warm life to them. Also male and female vocals just didnt have that much difference in tonality. The low end was very ‘lazy’ hearing Joe Walsh’s drummer playing through his drum kit each drum sounded pretty much the same. On the DX80 each drum sound is clearly distinct and recognizable. Im glad people seem to like it but it worries me a bit that not much is said about the sound itself :/


    1. I read your comments on head-fi ;), though wasn’t sure which headphone you were using when listening to this DAP. As you probably realize, while DAPs have their own signature (dictated by DAC and amp section), in your comment you’re describing the sound of your headphones and how they pair up with DX120. And it’s perfectly OK if you didn’t like the sound, and prefer DX80 which is warmer, more colored, and noisier. You preference is more toward the natural organic sound, while DX120 offers a more revealing analytical sound. That’s all.


  6. Good day sir. Thanks for this very detailed review. I am really interested in getting the dx120. I previously owned a sony a45 but the sound is to warm for me. The pairing with my Pioneer Ch9t doesn’t suit my taste. The bass is so much elevated and i feel fatigued listening for a short time. I am not a basshead, i prefer clarity over bass. So i was looking around for a dap with a neutral-bright sound and i stumbled upon this. I’m not much of a streamer or a bt headphones user, i just use dap for playbacks and usd dac. Do you the dx120 sound signature will fit my preference? Thanks again for this review and hope you could give me some advice.


    1. That’s funny cause I just replied above to another comment where the person preferred dx80 over dx120 because he didn’t want this extra clarity 🙂 Yes, DX120 will be great for what you are looking for. Plus, you can fine tune the sound by going though different digital filters and sound modes. So, you have some flexibility.


      1. I read about that but i haven’t tried dx80 yet. Sony a45 was my first dap. Thanks again for this, it helps a lot. Keep up the good reviews. Cheers!


  7. I enjoyed your review. I notice a few reviewers get their hands on a DAP and do quick impressions and make a conclusion off the bat. Im glad you took time to test this extensively. I have a question though. At the price point, if going off of pure sound quality, Hiby R3 or the Ibasso DX120


    1. Thank you for your kind words! I only heard R3 briefly, not enough to form a solid opinion. But I wasn’t too impressed with its balanced output. These do differ in sound sig, with dx120 being more revealing, more reference so it pairs up better with neutral and warmer tuned iems. R3 was a little smoother, more organic in tonality. But bal out of dx120 is a lot more powerful, better to drive more demanding headphones. Of course, sound quality comparison is subjective, and often depends on how you are enjoying the pair up with you specific headphones.


      1. Thanks for your excellent review! Could you give any more details on how the sound signature compares to the Cayin N5ii/S? I’m really torn between the two. I’m a little uncertain of the buttons on the DX120 because they are so close together and you mentioned in your review that you had trouble with them. I like the button layout and volume knob of the N5ii/S better. I realize that the two players have different feature sets (what with the N5ii/S having wifi and bluetooth) but they both strike my fancy.


      2. don’t think there is much to add in addition to what I already covered in dx120 review comparing it to N5ii (and I have a detailed comparison of N5ii to N5iiS in my S review). It’s a tough choice man. Too many daps are out there, and you can now add Shanling M5s to the list (just received it). If you need streaming, that’s an easy to choice to pick N5ii/S, otherwise, they all starting to get closer in sound quality, so maybe choose based on what you like from the pictures 😉


  8. Hello sir, have you tried adding your own wallpapers? I tried creating a folder called “Wallpapers” and put in 480*800 images in both JPEG and PNG format but It wont detect.


    1. Sorry, I haven’t. You need to contact Lurker on Head-fi, he is the one who does all the custom FW for iBasso DAPs. I’m sure, if there is a way, he will be able to help you.


    1. I don’t know if it’s going to be an improvement for you or not. I noted in Comparison section of my review all the changes in sound performance I hear between these two (go to the 3rd page of my DX120 review). Also, keep in mind the difference in features offered by these two DAPs. As a reviewer I can only point out the difference, while you have to make a decision if those will matter to you 😉


  9. Hi Alex, enjoyed all of your reviews and settled by getting dx120. I have andro-s and looking to upgrade a cable. My preferrence is more of clarity and separation which is very noticable on stock andro litz. But wanted to maximize by using balanced output. Do you have any recommendations that suits well as mentioned? Thanks in advance!


    1. Most of my cables are 2pin, so I can’t use it with Andro (though I finally got a connector adaptor for testing). In the past I tried a few other copper and silver plated cables with Andro, and didn’t like the pair up, always going back to stock Litz. ALO’s Ref8 hybrid will improve the clarity/separation and will tighten the bass, but to my ears it made lower treble a little harsher… As I was typing you my reply, I just tried Ares II with Rhapsodio 2pin to mmcx adaptor, and bingo! Tighter sound, better imaging, clarity is similar.


      1. Hey Alex, audied Ares ii earlier and I’m not sure if you already tried Andro-S which has forwarded mids compared to OGs. I find the mids too much forwarded with Ares ii.
        I also tried Eros which has similar material with cb13 (copper & silver), I kinda liked them but I think the sparkle somehow lost. So I’m really betting on cb13 which has 8 cores – Eros ii I think has only 4 cores. Do you think you can make a push on cb13-Andro combo? I’m asking this bec there is no demo unit available on cb13. And the only option is to pay them in advance before they can order it for me.

        Always appreciate your work. Thanks in advance!


      2. what do you mean “make a push”? as in can they connect ok? You can, but starting with CB12s (the cable they used in IT04 and standalone), they implemented new mmcx connectors (also, the same connectors used now with IT01s). Those have a better connection to work with Andro and other mmcx based iems… Btw, was testing Solaris last night, comparing it to original Andro, and noted that Solaris mids are more forward; sounds like Andro SS fixes that, pushing mids forward, similar to Solaris.


  10. Make a push, I mean to give your impression on cb13-andro. But since you mentioned Solaris, which have similar mids to Andro SS (which actually what I have). Could you make impressions on both? (Andro-cb13 and Solaris-cb13). better if you can do Andro SS-cb13 would be perfect! 🙂


  11. I have tested playback time yesterday,battery 27% remain when 10 hours played(flac,mp3@320kpbs,itunes aac),actually it’s 14 hours playback time whether 3.5mm PO or balanced out.but 16 hours,maybe wait to updated firmware a few times.


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