In this test, I was using U18t, set at medium gain, using filter 1 on DX220. This comparison is based on tonality only, not the features. Each of these DAPs has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities if you need streaming or not, which balanced termination you prefer, how much output power do you need, your battery requirements, etc. And of course, there is a noticeable price gap when comparing DX220 to other flagships.
DX220 vs Cowon Plenue L – very similar soundstage expansion, dynamics, and layering. The only noticeable difference is in tonality with DX220/amp8 being a little warmer, smoother, and having a fuller body in mids, while PL is a little brighter and crisper. With DX220/amp1ii the tonality gap narrows down, where PL is just a touch brighter in lower mids and a bit brighter/airier in treble while DX220 sounds a little more organic.
DX220 vs Lotoo PAW Gold Touch LPGT – similar soundstage expansion, dynamics. and layering. Again, tonality is the main difference in sound here with LPGT being a little brighter, more reference, while DX220 is smoother and more natural. Also, DX220 adds a little more weight in the sub-bass. DX220 w/amp8 will add more body to the sound.
DX220 vs Sony WM1Z – another comparison with a very similar performance in soundstage expansion, dynamics, layering, and even tonality. 1Z is just a touch brighter in upper mids with a crisper treble when compared to DX220 w/amp8, but with a stock amp1ii they sound closer, though 1Z still has a deeper low end impact.
DX220 vs A&K SP1000 SS – the performance in this comparison is similar when it comes to dynamics and layering of the sounds, but I do hear DX220 soundstage to be a little bit wider. With a tonality, amp1ii sounds very similar to SS, maybe just a touch smoother in treble, and I hear a little more impact in DX bass. With amp8, DX tonality is a little warmer/smoother and bass punches stronger when compared to SS.
DX220 vs Hiby R6 Pro – I hear more difference here with DX220 having a wider soundstage, slightly more expanded vertical dynamics, and improved layering between the sounds, not by a big margin, but noticeable enough. Tonality is similar when compared to amp8, but amp1ii makes it a little brighter and more revealing. Also, R6Pro bass hits a little harder.
Other Wired/Wireless connections.
In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with DX220. All the listening was done using U18t IEMs.
- By default, it’s turned off, thus needs to be enabled in DX220.
- In my testing I had optical out going to Micro iDSD BL, volume on DX220 seems to be fixed.
- I found the sound to be very transparent, with a black background and even a touch wider soundstage. Really enjoyed this pair up.
- By default, it gets activated automatically.
- Also used it connected to micro iDSD BL and found volume to be fixed on DX220.
- Similarly, the sound is very transparent, with a black background and even a touch wider soundstage.
Surprisingly, from either SPDIF optical or coax, I hear the sound to be nearly identical when DX220 is being used as transport.
- I was using FiiO E12A portable amp in this testing.
- w/E12A vs amp1ii directly: connected directly you get a blacker background and a slightly smoother sound. In comparison with E12A connected, the sound is a bit raw and the background is not as black. Don’t think it’s a “function” of the DAC since I have tested it with different amp modules, perhaps not the best pair up with E12A in this case.
- To test Bluetooth, I paired DX220 up with Hiby W5 (LDAC) wireless receiver connected to other wired headphones. I don’t have any other headphones supporting LDAC protocol and was curious only about the highest wireless audio quality. It paired up as HD LDAC without a problem. The sound was clear and transparent, nearly like wired.
BT DAC/amp (receiver)
- In this test I wanted to use DX220 as a wireless Bluetooth DAC/amp. You have to make sure to pair up with your phone first, then when you enable DAC/amp option, you can use DX220 as a wireless DAC/amp. Paired up with my Galaxy S9, which supports LDAC, I was comparing a track played from DX220 directly and the same track playing on my phone connected to DX220, and it was nearly identical in sound to my ears.
I mentioned in the intro of my review that perhaps due to model naming, going from DX200 to DX220, this upgrade not going to be as drastic. That’s how I approached this review, under assumption that we are dealing with a similar modular design and the same DAC and CPU. But as I continued my testing and taking notes, I started to realize that some of the changes here are more drastic.
I’m a fan of DX200Ti with its Ti amp module and design tweaks to scale up the audio performance. But it was a limited run at double the price due to material and manufacturing expenses associated with Ti chassis. DX220 picks up Ti sound improvements with blacker background and wider soundstage, refines them, and re-packages into a slicker design with a new amp1ii, bigger screen, fast charging, latest Bluetooth, etc. As a cherry on top, you get new Mango v2 app with a more streamlined interface. And the best part, its price is only $30 more than original DX200 model.
This is definitely a no-brainer when choosing between new DX200 and DX220, but the current DX200 owners will probably be faced with a more difficult decision if they should keep or upgrade to DX220. It’s a tough call because I know of many DX200 owners with amp8 who are very happy with its performance. But once you try DX220 and realize the level of overall sound and design refinement, it will be hard to ignore the upgraditis bug. Now, iBasso needs to hurry up with that amp9!!!