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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.