iBasso DX220 MAX

Design.

Starting with exterior dimensions, DX220 MAX has been supersized to 145mm x 83mm x 26mm with a weight of about 700g, the reason why iBasso now calls MAX transportable instead of portable.  But why increase in size considering it is no longer even a modular design?  I will go into more details in the next “under the hood” section of the review, but you have to keep in mind extra room required for 5 battery cells (for separate analog and digital circuits), all dedicated ports, big/tall audio-grade capacitors, custom volume pot, stainless-steel heat-dissipation chassis, and a big 5” 1080p display with 1080×1920 resolution.

The right side of the DAP features no controls (my ‘name’ was etched as part of review unit), while the left side only has a spring-loaded micro SD card slot.  While sides are bland and the top/bottom are covered in glass, the visual eye-candy of the MAX design comes through when you examine the front and the back of the chassis.  With every individual port having a golden surrounding faceplate, the contrast with stainless-steel chassis makes it look premium.  On the front, left to right, you have 4.4mm dedicate Line Out, 4.4mm balanced headphone output, 3.5mm single ended headphone output, and a large golden knob of a custom 4-wiper potentiometer to adjust the headphone output volume.

On the back, you have DC-in for 18V wall charger to juice up analog section batteries.  Then, you have a power button with a typical short click screen on/off and long press power on/off functionality.  Next to it is USB-C port for charging digital section battery and other digital in/out functionality, and btw, this port also had a cutout with a gold faceplate.  And last, but not least, 3.5mm digital SPDIF output which doubles as optical out.  For me personally, considering I have been using MAX as my desktop DAP, the location of ports is perfect with power supply cables on the back, and headphone ports and volume control on the front.

I’m sure many will notice something is missing in the design, a traditional hardware transport buttons for play/pause/skip.  I honestly don’t know why the decision was made not to include those buttons.  Maybe because this is transportable rather than portable device?  I don’t want to speculate about the reason, but I do miss this functionality, though you can use many Android media control Bluetooth remotes as a workaround.

Under the hood.

As part of its “DX220” name, MAX still uses a dual SABRE ES9028Pro DAC, the same 8-core CPU and GPU, and 4GB LPDDR3 RAM with a benchmark performance (according to AnTuTu test) being close to the original modular DX220.  As already mentioned, you will also find 5” IPS touch screen, Bluetooth 5.0, 5G Wifi, XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon usb audio drivers, and support of QC3.0, PD2.0, & MTK PE Plus quick charge for digital section.  The internal storage now is 128GB, and you can expand it with high capacity micro SD card.  You still have a support for bit-for-bit playback up to 32bit/384kHz, and native DSD up to 512x, as well as all popular audio formats: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF and DXD.  MQA decoding is supported as well, and so does M3U playlists.

ibasso_dx-220-max-24

The big change here is in power management where MAX digital and analog sections are partitioned, completely isolated, and powered separately to make sure the noise doesn’t couple from one side to the other.  They literally use a separate 4400mAh 3.8V LiPo battery for a digital section of the MAX, and separate 4pcs 900mAh +/-8.4V LiPo battery for analog section of the DAP.  That is a reason why you have 2 separate chargers, standard usb-c charger for digital 3.8V battery, and 18V wall charger for analog 8.4V battery.  This way you don’t need to use voltage boosters or converters, further isolating digital and analog circuits inside the MAX.

This is especially important for analog Amplifier section of the design, powered by +/- 8.4V battery without loosing efficiency or introducing distortion due to voltage boosters, keeping the power pure.  The amplifier section itself is based on AMP8 module with its optimized class A discrete circuit architecture.  The headphone output from the amp is very powerful, single ended 3.5mm @4.4Vrms (measured 4.35Vrms with 300ohm load) and balanced 4.4mm @8.8Vrms (measured 8.7Vrms with 300ohm load).  With the balanced output alone, this translates into roughly 2.4W of output into 32ohm load and 258mW into 300ohm load.  With such high desktop level output power, it comes in handy for MAX to have 3 gain settings.  And in addition to independent volume pot controlling analog amp output, you can also use digital volume control to adjust DAC output level like in a pre-amp.

I’m sure many will be curious about battery life considering advanced power architecture and high output power.  I ran the battery test on MAX with DAC volume at 135 and Analog volume pot at around 9 o’clock (normal listening), using average impedance and sensitivity IEMs connected to 4.4mm balanced out, med gain, filter 1 setting, BT/WiFi off, screen mostly off, only the occasional glimpse to check the battery status while playing a mix of mp3/flac files in a loop.  Under these conditions MAX lasted about 11hrs 45min with digital battery down to 0 and analog battery remaining around 20%.  Switching to higher gain, playing higher resolution files, streaming and having BT/WiFi on, and using demanding headphones will add more variables to drain batteries faster.

ibasso_dx-220-max-34

Page 3 – GUI, Mango app vs Mango OS, Graphic and Parametric EQs.
Page 4 – Sound Analysis and Pair up.
Page 5 – Comparison, Wired/wireless connection, and Conclusion.

10 thoughts on “iBasso DX220 MAX

  1. Hi Twister6.

    Presumably DX228EX edition sits somewhere between DX228 and DX220 MAX in terms of technical proficiency and overall “sound”?

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    1. Not too familiar with AMP8ex. Vince and I met at CanJam NYC ’19 when he let me hear it briefly, it was a long time ago, vague memories, but I do remember soundstage being wider… EX mode changes caps, adds shielding, but MAX is a totally different design with a completely isolation of digital/analog sides, different batteries to power up analog/digital sides of the ckt, and 8.8V output straight without up voltage conversion. There could be similarities in sound, but I don’t have access to do direct a/b comparison. I even heard, there is MAX-ex mod as well.

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      1. Thanks for the feedback. Although I can see why iBasso have used the same screen and SoC, the DX220 is sluggish to boot and respond to input, compared to say, the N6ii. Not sure if that’s the case with the MAX? I understand that more current SoC are hard to obtain. Looking at some of your other DAP reviews, I did think about a LPGT but not sure if the outlay would necessarily bring a tangible increase in performance. I reckon my DX228EX is on par if not better than the PAW6000.

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      2. Yep, MAX Android performance is the same as dx220. LPGT/LP6k is Unix based, non android, very fast. Just speaking in terms of OS performance, N6ii/R6Pro will be faster and new R8 is the fastest available Android dap. With sound performance, can’t think of any dap that can beat MAX, but you have to compromise portability, lack of play/pause/skip, and 2 separate charges.

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  2. What are your thoughts related to the Cayin N6ii with E02 and the Max? I’ll primarily be listening using the Solaris SE and I’ve heard really good things about the Cayin pairing, but it sounds like Max may be better, particularly when it comes to hiss.

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    1. Yes, better pairing, but you have to keep in mind, MAX is 700g brick. I’m using it on my desk, not dragging it around with me. That is a reason it is transportable. Also, keep in mind, N6ii android performance is faster.

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      1. I’m not a stranger to bricks. I’ve previously owned a Kann Cube, though the Max is a bit heftier.

        I almost exclusively listen while at a desk or have some surface around I can place it on so that should be fine.

        I have a Max on order now and I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin when it arrives later this week.

        Thanks for the review! It was extremely helpful when it came down to making a decision since I was really debating between the Max, R8, AK SE200 and Cayin N6ii w/ E02.

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      2. Then, MAX shouldn’t be a problem for you! R8 is great as well, MAX still has an edge in technical performance, but if you are on the go and need something powerful and portable, R8 currently is the fastest and the most powerful android DAP, imho. But if you want the best and don’t need portability, MAX is truly at the top of the food chain.

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  3. I’ve owned 5 ibasso players and all have sounded great. But I’ll never buy another one untill they get all of their issues out of the way BEFORE they take my money. My first 2 were the dx50 and 90.both great sounding payers, but the user experience to many updates to fix. Then I bought the dx150. Again, excellent sound, but the lag, even with their “fix” is still an issue. The dx160 posed a boot up problem that finally fixed itself. Now the biggest issue is with the dx150, dx160, & dx200. If you’re a streamer, you’ve got to be in the same room with your router. Once you leave the room, NO WIFI. I’ve got a very powerful router that throws a signal throughout my 2500 Sq foot home, and I have zero issues with any other device. Even my fiio M6, a 130.00 pkayer streams perfectly. Now we go to bluetooth. Once again you’ll get a great connection for 20-30 feet AS LONG AS YOU HAVE AN UNOBSTRUCTED PATH. Even putting the device in your pocket will change this. So I’m giving up on ibasso, and bought the fiio m11 pro. WOW, it sounds better, works flawlessly, and has a great UI. Sorry ibasso, but I gave you a chance.

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  4. Hello, I have the CU version of sp2000 and the Max, I think the CU tuning is very diferent from the SS, my sp2000 has a more natural voice reproduction is not brighter than Max, is exactly the opposite, but I like Max very much

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