PROS: independent batteries and charging system for analog and digital sections, desktop quality audio performance with high voltage output, solid build, large hi-res 5” display, Snapdragon 660 and optimized Android 9.0, 6GB RAM/128GB Storage, dedicated Line out, dual Android & Mango (Unix) OS, fast charging, leather case.
CONS: 2 separate chargers, weight, higher price than DX300.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Following the footsteps of DX300 release with an optimized Android 9.0 and a fast Snapdragon 660 SoC, iBasso surprised everybody again with an upgrade to their DX220 MAX (2Max), and this time there was no confusion about its model number. Back when 2Max was introduced, the reference to “DX220” led some to believe it is still modular. This time, the release of DX300 MAX (3Max) was clear: a new iBasso DAP based on advance design of MAX architecture and DX300 digital platform. But the release of 3Max is more than just CPU and OS upgrade.
I consider MAX to be “money is no object” special edition release where the focus is purely on the best sound quality without any compromises. Forget about modular design or lightweight slim chassis. If you need that, modular DX300 with bigger display will be a better option. The idea behind MAX series is to maximize the performance by using dual independently charged batteries to fully isolate analog and digital sections, to use optimized discrete amp circuit and top audiophile grade capacitors, analog volume control, and bulletproof solid chassis.
In addition to new CPU and optimized Android 9.0, iBasso also responded to customer feedback and implemented hardware transport controls as well as new dual DAC. Actually, the reason I titled my review a “Bittersweet” because the new DAC is AKM’s flagship AK4499, just announced as being discontinued. I’m sure many are familiar with a fire at AKM factory which affected the supply of their flagship DACs. Many manufacturers scrambled to get their hands on the remaining stock, and now switching to ESS and CS DACs in new and upcoming releases.
iBasso only had enough material to manufacturer a total of 500 units, split between 400 SS and 100 Ti versions. When 3Max became available, SS units were gone within weeks, and Ti units were gone within hours. Which raises a big question of why even bother writing a review if you can’t buy these anymore? There is still an active userbase who can benefit from it, and the technology behind MAX will make its way into future releases, like it did with DX300. 3Max is not the last chapter, and it deserves its own spotlight and review which I’m sharing today.
As my usual disclaimer, this review is long, but everything is partitioned and split into different sections and pages to make navigation easier.
Unboxing and Accessories.
The unboxing experience of 3Max is identical to 2Max. The unit arrived in a large size all black carboard box with another giftbox inside of it, stamped with iBasso logo on top. Under the cover with a foam to protect the screen, 3Max was sitting securely in a foam cutout of the top tray with a velour lining.
With that top tray out of the way, you will find a number of useful accessories split and organized inside of velour drawstring bags. There was a short coax cable for digital SPDIF output, 2.5mm balanced burn-in cable along with iBasso own CA02 2.5mm to 4.4mm balanced adapter, 4.4mm balanced to 3.5mm SE one-way short LO cable, AC adapter (12V/1.5A), quality usb-c cable, extra screen protectors, warranty card, and a quick start guide.
iBasso recommends at least 200hrs of burn in time, and using its burn-in load cable is a lot more convenient and quieter since you don’t need to use the actual headphones. Then, due to 4.4mm balanced Line Out only, the included custom LO cable “converts” from BAL to SE by using GND pin and only L+/R+ side of the connector pins. The 4.4mm side of the cable even has a directional arrow to make sure you plug it in the right away.
A custom blue leather case was included as well. It’s a nice quality smooth finish premium leather case to enhance the grip of 3Max and to protect its SS (or Ti) finish from scratches. It has fully open front for DAP to slide in, open back to provide access to the ports and microSD card, and covered transport buttons on the right side.
Page 2 – Design and Under the hood.
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.