iBasso DX220 MAX

GUI.

DX220 MAX is similar to DX200/220 with a dual boot design where you have access to either full Android OS with its Mango audio app or stripped-down Mango OS with a main interface being that audio app.  Each one has its own advantages depending on user requirements.  With access to full Android you have support of wifi and Bluetooth, can load other apps, stream audio, etc, though you have to be aware that stock DX220 doesn’t have Google Play.  Instead, it comes pre-loaded with APKPure and CoolApk apps where you can search and download most of the apps to install on your DAP.  And, with MAX running 8.1.0 now you can download and install Google Play straight from APKPure without any issues.  Plus, you can always download and install Lurker’s free ROM which usually brings Google Play and other optimizations, along with a few other goodies, to iBasso Android DAPs.

ibasso_dx-220-max-18

Mango OS is a strip down version of operating system built around Mango app interface where the focus is strictly on audio interface without a waste of OS resources on other tasks.  Switching between these two OS is very simple, when you boot up into Android and press’n’hold Power button you have a choice of Power off, Restart, or switch to Mango.  When you switch to Mango, DAP is rebooted and will continue to boot into Mango OS every time until you go to Settings->Advanced and select Android System.  Once Android System is selected, it will only boot into Android OS until you switch back to Mango OS.

If you look into Mango app (or Mango OS), you will quickly realize this is a new v2 version, just like in DX220 with a smoother and faster interface.  There are a few differences between Mango app and Mango OS interface, they are not identical, and I will cover it a little later.

With a bigger 5” display, you have a better view of the embedded song/album artwork, if one is available.  If not, a default image is displayed.  The biggest change here is that you no longer have to swipe left/right to get to the file/song management and settings.  The main playback screen has a more logical interface where you swipe the artwork display left/right to skip between the songs, and access song search and file management from a shortcut in the upper left corner and settings from a shortcut in the upper right corner.

ibasso_dx-220-max-20

Below the artwork, you have track info and a scroll bar to advance through the song where you can tap anywhere to skip.  To me it’s a BIG deal since in previous versions you had to tap and drag the current song position to a new one.  Now, you can fast forward/back by simply tapping on a timeline like you would on your smartphone.  Below it, you have a shortcut on the left to provide a more detailed info about the song, and another shortcut on the right to switch between playback modes (play in order, repeat list, shuffle, repeat current song).  Play/Pause and Skip next/prev buttons are big enough and located at the bottom.  Also, all the way at the top in the middle you can swipe down to access the list of your current songs playback or songs located in your current playback directory.  From that list, you can swipe each song to the left which gives you an option to delete it.

In Music search and track management, you can search through your songs (where it’s indexed) or by browsing the internal storage directory.  Under indexed list, you can view All Music, or sort by Album, Artist, Genre, Now Playing, and Playlist.  Any song you long press will give you an option to Play, Add to playlist, or Delete.  You also have a setting (3 vertical bars all the way on the right) to specify exactly what you want to see in navigation bar or how you want music to be sorted and viewed.  The level of customization details here is quite impressive.  Plus, all the way at the bottom you have a small area to see the currently playing song and to control its playback with play/pause button.  Tapping on it takes you back to the main Playback screen.

In Settings Menu, you have access to Gapless (on/off), Gain (low, medium, high – 3 gain settings now!!!), Play mode (order, loop, shuffle, repeat, folder play), EQ (on/off, brings you to Graphic/Parametric EQ screen), L/R Balance, 7 Digital filters, and Advanced Setting.  In Advanced you can select USB DAC, Sleep Timer, Scanning (songs on a card or internal), and System info.

ibasso_dx-220-max-21

There is also Audio Settings menu under Android Settings where you change DAC output volume (max 150) which is also our digital volume which you can control with BT remote.  This is a volume of the DAC output going into internal amplifier, so I often refer to it as pre-amp volume.  Then, you also have auto-mute feature, Optical output on/off, Gain setting (low/mid/high), Digital Filter settings, and Volume limitation (up to 150) setting.

ibasso_dx-220-max-19

Mango app vs Mango OS.

I’m sure many will be curious how does Mango app (in Android mode) compares to stripped down Mango OS.  Here is a summary of some of the differences I found while testing MAX (build number 1.01.123).  There could be more, but these stood out for me.

  • Mango OS start up is faster, while Mango app/Android takes a little longer (a few extra seconds).
  • Mango app (in Android) navigation is faster, while Mango OS has a slight lag.
  • Mango app (in Android) has EQ and PEQ, while Mango OS has only EQ.
  • In Mango app you can randomly tap on timeline to advance to any part of the song, in Mango OS you have to drag the pointer to a new position like in original DX200.
  • In Mango app “Now playing” directory/list is accessible when you pull down the main screen, while in Mango OS you have to tap upper left corner to get to music sorting where you view “Now playing” list.

There are also differences in sound between Mango app and Mango OS, and I will cover it in sound analysis section of the review.

EQ.

MAX offers a traditional Graphic EQ (EQ) where frequency bands are fixed, and you only adjust the gain with a slider.  In Mango app (Android mode) you also get Parametric EQ (PEQ) where you have a lot more control over which frequency is being adjusted, bandwidth of the frequency being adjusted, the type of the filter used to adjust the frequency, and of course the gain of the adjustment.  Here are my observations while testing EQ and PEQ.

Graphic EQ (EQ)

  • When enabled, drops the volume to create extra headroom for band adjustment (to avoid clipping).
  • Relatively clean 10-band EQ adjustment (33, 63, 100, 330, 630, 1k, 3.3k, 6.3k, 10k, 16k frequency bands).
  • Whenever you adjust a band, you can see it being shown graphically above the EQ sliders; great visual feedback.
  • 5 genre specific presets are included where each one could be adjusted further and reset to its original state.

ibasso_dx-220-max-22

Parametric EQ (PEQ)

  • Includes 6 custom preset settings.
  • When enabled, volume doesn’t drop.
  • While adjusting, I didn’t hear any distortion.
  • Each preset setting has 6 assignable filters/frequencies to shape the sound where each one is represented by a different color on the screen.
  • Filter types: low pass filter, high pass filter, band pass filter, notch filter, all pass filter, peaking filter, low shelf filter, high shelf filter – peaking filter will be probably the most useful.
  • Each filter has: Fc (center frequency, from 33 to 16k), Gain (-20 to 20 dB), Q factor (0.3 to 20) where smaller Q makes the bandwidth wider and bigger Q makes the bandwidth narrower.
  • Fc and Gain could also be adjusted on the touch screen by dragging the pointer left/right and up/down.
  • The sound is adjusted/updated in real time as you move the filter peak and frequency.

ibasso_dx-220-max-23

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”?

    Like

    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.

      Like

      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.

        Like

      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.

        Like

  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.

    Like

    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.

      Like

      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.

        Like

      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.

        Like

  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.

    Like

  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

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s