iBasso DX220

Comparison.

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.

ibasso_dx220-36

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.

Optical out

  • 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.

Coax out

  • 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.

Line Out

  • 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.

ibasso_dx220-34

BT w/headphones

  • 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.

Conclusion.

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!!!

28 thoughts on “iBasso DX220

  1. Great review! I am loving my DX220. It is a large step up from my n5ii. Quick question: when using the line out, I am must to having the output fixed, and was surprised to see the volume control come into play. What gain and volume should it be set at for best performance?

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    1. It will all depend on the amp you have connected to LO. You don’t want it to clip. So, maybe keep the gain of the amp somewhere in the middle and raise the volume of dx220. If you reach the volume over 75-80%, then boost the gain of the amp.

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  2. Nice review! Regarding my earphones (Andromeda & Xelento), do you think dx220 is a solid upgrade (sound wise) over my current dap Hiby R6.

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    1. Definitely. R6Pro, still have to review it, is great as well and I like mseb dsp effects, plus it’s super fast, faster android performance than dx220. But dx220 stepped it up to a higher sound performance.

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  3. Nice review as always. Still undecided, whether to upgrade my R6 to R6pro or DX220 or now N6ii.. i read r6pro had hiss problem on some iem.. my earphones now tia trio, mh334 (problem pairing with R6) and moondrop A8..

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  4. A long awaited and greatly appreciated review.
    Many thanks and congrats on being able to wait out 150 hours of break-in before being able to sample this new piece of kit 🙂

    From memory h0w would you consider the sound signature and power of the DX220 to the Cayin N8?

    Did you find battery life to be on par with the DX200?

    I also have some off topic questions regarding audio equipment. Is there a general discussion board I can use or should I post them here?

    Very nice review

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  5. Great review. I wonder; when burning in a dap, should one also activate the EQ circuits to burn them in too? Or does it ‘not work like that’… I’ve never been a EQ guy, but i’m wondering if the circuitry just needs to be burned in.

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  6. Hi again, Twister. Can you sum up the difference between the dx220 and the A&K SE-100’s sound signatures? Is one ‘better’ than the other?

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  7. Hello, Alex!
    Very interestingly as dx220 in comparison with cayin n6 mk2? Loses on a sound, or devices of one level, just different giving? So to speak matter of taste:)

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    1. I already compared dx220 to many other daps in my review, on the last page. I didn’t have M11 until now, and M11 has a great design, build, functionality, but its sound is just mid-fi, not on the same level as other flagships like dx220 or N6ii or even fiio older flagship X7ii. For many consumers M11 will be great, but if you are a picky audiophile, you will find M11 to sound flatter, not as layered, and with more hissing when using sensitive iems. Just my opinion.

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    1. if you are streaming with constant display on, or high gain, or play hi-res files or switched from 720p to 1080p resolution, all will add up to extra battery consumption. Under normal circumstances of playing a mix of mp3/flac, with period display on, at 720p resolution, I get 8hrs of payback with IEMs in low gain in 2.5mm balanced. But the battery life will go down when you push it with other stuff I mentioned above.

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  8. Could you, please, help me with my problem. Thinking about buying a new DAC (currently, I have dx80, quite satisfied but want more at this point). Choosing between A&K sp1000 and dx220. I understand that sp1000 should be better than dx220, but on what scale? Because sp1000 is older and also cost much more (in my region though difference is not so huge, 600USD). Is the difference in sound worth the price? I’ll listen sp1000 by myself but will not be able to get hands-on dx220 unfortunately… Can only order it via Amazon. I’ll also look for new IEMs and listen to some of them, but I think I’ll choose solaris se

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      1. My budget…good question) in the beginning I thought to buy smth like dx220+dunu4001. But then I saw huge sale at the nearest shop on solaris se and sp1000. This is more than I wanted to spend but…I can afford them, more or less (it would cost 2800 usd for me). And no, I don’t care about streaming and bluetooth at all. I am open-minded to other suggestions though, both about daps and iem-s

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      2. well, since you are coming of DX80, many daps will be an upgrade in sound and performance (better resolution, more resolving, better separation of instruments, etc.). Also, it sounds like you are not a very picky audiophile. SPK is great dap, but big and bulky to carry around like your dx80. DX220 is great, but you can save money and go with DX160. Solaris is great, but are you sure you wll be happy with a fit? Some people find it too big. SE version is brighter, btw. I personally prefer original over since it sounds more natural. If you want more natural sound maybe RAI Penta is a good choice, I’m not familiar with 4001, though I thought people were saying 4001 and 3001 were bright, while 3001 Pro was more natural in tonality. Heck you can get DX160 and ibaso IT04 for under $900 and it’s a great combo. There are dozens of DAPs and hundreds of IEMs. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get something good. 3-4 year ago it was a different story. With iems, you need to figure out what sound you are looking for, and also read what people say about the fit. Dunu Luna is comfortable, I tried that one, but heard many older models were very uncomfortable to wear. Also, be aware, way too many amateur reviewers today, people without experience who use big words and promoting junk in exchange for free samples.

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  9. With iems – yeah, I am not so concerned about choosing them, as I will be able to listen to many of them and choose. Not ibasso unfortunately. My shop doesn’t have any ibasso or dunu products for some reason.
    I will consider ibasso dx160+it04 as you suggested. But since I cannot listen to them, could you tell me, is there like a significant difference in sound quality between them and sp1k+solaris se, for example? or it is more like “I have a lot of money to spend, so I will pay 3x times more for 10% better sound”. Because even if they are much better than mine dx80+d2000j, maybe difference with dx160+it04 is not so significant.
    And yeah, I am not such a person who believes that software (mango os on linux vs android os on A&K) or usb or power cables in your audio system affect sound. But I want to buy something I will be happy with for 5+ years. Because I have dx80+2000j for 4 or 5 years, and I have started to think that I want more.

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      1. i see. yes, geographic location plays a big role when you’re down under and won’t be able to return it back if you don’t like it. Tbh, in your situation stick to something you can test. Are there some stores in your area with audio gear on display? PAW6k is great, solid DAP and very compact. The thing, price no longer means everything. PAW6k not going to sound 3x better than Dx160, just like SPK will not sound 9x better than DX160. DX220 gives you flexibility of different amp modules, and ibasso usually focuses more on sound quality, not necessary the fastest processor…. So, my advice, don’t go for the most expensive thinking it will be the best. Figure out your priorities in terms of what features you do or don’t need. And maybe try to buy something which you can return if you don’t like it (i just google “audio store in australia” and see a few choices). Cayin makes nice daps, like N6ii w/A01 stock card. Hiby R6 Pro is nice, and even R5 is good. iBasso kicked arse with DX160 release, though bluetooth performance wasn’t as strong. Read different reviews, some more ideas. Good luck!

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  10. Actually, I have only one shop to go, but they are on quarantine right now) They have sp1k (and some others), but not ibasso. There are people on forums, who say that they sold their sp1k or even sp2k, and that dx220 is better. And I know that A&K is quite overpriced, while ibasso is not so hungry for money with some good sound. But still those people could not convince me as they were saying things, like Mango is much better in terms of sound quality than android. And in the context of a price difference for me is actually only 600USD (1400AUD of dx220 and 2200AUD for sp1k), which one would you choose? That’s why I am asking if you can give some advice about their comparison. If like sp1k is better for 20%, not several times, it will be enough for me. But if dx220 is more or less equal or even better…

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