iBasso DX240

Sound Analysis.

Since a DAP’s sound signature can only truly be explained through pair-ups with different transducers and comparisons to other DAPs, the sound analysis is followed by a detailed pair-ups and comparison section with multiple DAPs, headphones and IEMs. I highly recommend reading it all to get the best idea of how DX240 fares.

Summary – With ESS’ flagship DAC 9038Pro, DX240 oozes of high-end sound quality and performance. It has a very dynamic and rich signature, that I mostly perceive as neutral, but with excellent resolution and micro-detail retrieval while always being a very musical listen. It has punch and dynamics that have now become a USP of iBasso DAPs but kicks it to higher levels compared to its younger sibling, the DX160 (which I reviewed here). It has really good bass punch and impact too, but what particularly stands out to me every time is its ultra clean and clear sounding soundstage, very good imaging, very clear separation left to right as well as along the depth and a very nice black background that makes it very easy to focus on reverb tails.

Driving Power – DX240 is a fairly powerful DAP with 281mW power available from the 3.5mm SE and 878mW available from the 2.5mm BAL output. It can drive most IEMs with absolute ease, be it dynamic drivers, multi-BAs or hybrids/tri-brids in just Low Gain. As for headphones, DX240 easily drives the Audeze LCD-X 2021 (20Ω, 102dB/mW), Sennheiser HD6XX (300Ω, 103dB/Vrms) and Focal Elex (80Ω, 104dB/mw) to good levels with the 2.5mm BAL out even in Low Gain but I generally switch to High Gain when using headphones for more headroom and ease of drivability.

iBasso DX240 Solo 4

AMP1 MK3 vs AMP8.

The original AMP8 is an optional amp module, released for DX150/200/220 DAP models.  Using a custom faceplate provided by iBasso, it was converted to fit DX240 for the comparison with its stock AMP1 MK3.

AMP8 has a single 4.4mm BAL output with over 1W of power, which is a bit more than AMP1 MK3 and come off slightly more powerful in usage too. I perceive AMP8 having a very slightly more open and holographic soundstage. It is a bit brighter than AMP1 MK3 and has even better separation between instruments, particularly left to right. Overall, AMP1 MK3 has a more neutral tonality and AMP8 is ever so slightly tending neutral bright, but all these differences are very minute in the larger scheme of things and AMP1 MK3 is no slouch. I think the decision between the two won’t just come down to tonality but also output ports since you’re limited with AMP8 to just one 4.4mm BAL port while AMP1 MK3 has both 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm BAL ports.

Quick pairing impressions.

Disclaimer – A DAP can’t change a headphone or IEM’s core sound signature. It can only influence some qualities of the core sound, which may or may not stand out significantly to everyone. Also, one may or may not care for these differences depending on how substantial the differences are perceived and how obsessive one is about every component of the chain, big or small. In my impressions, I list things that stand out to me and the differences I perceive compared to headphone/IEM’s pairing with other DAPs in my collection.

Headphones

iBasso SR2 – SR2 comes with 2 ear pads which change the sound signature significantly. My impressions are with the stock ear pads (smaller perforations) with which SR2 has a warmer signature. Sound wise, this is a really good pairing. I particularly like SR2’s pairing with AMP8, with SR2 being on the warm side and AMP8 being slightly brighter in the top end but AMP1MK3 is no slouch and they pair quite well too. I perceive improved balance especially in the upper-midrange and lower-treble relationship plus an overall improvement in resolution and separation, especially in the lower-midrange. Soundstage depth sounds cleaner and slightly deeper with AMP1 MK3 but is even more holographic with better left to right separation with AMP8. Bass seems tighter with good strong impact.

iBasso DX240 + SR2 3

Audeze LCD-X 2021 – Right off the bat I hear a holographic soundstage, a more dynamic presentation, cleaner lower-midrange and punchier bass with stronger impact. Even though LCD-X is fairly easy to drive to loud levels, it feels like DX240 is driving it more easily with cleaner power as it has better dynamics compared to its pairing with other DAPs in my collection. Soundstage’s width and depth are expanded, which also improves left to right separation between instrument. I feel it images better too.

I did not have a balanced cable for the LCD-X at the time of writing this review, so couldn’t test its performance with AMP8. 

iBasso DX240 + Audeze LCD-X 2

Focal Elex – With AMP1 MK3, I hear a very clean and open soundstage with very micro-detail retrieval, especially in bass and treble. Midrange sounds very natural but has excellent layering. Soundstage boundaries sound a little expanded, with instruments have slightly better imaging compared to other DAPs in my collection. With AMP8, I hear an even open soundstage but also slightly brighter treble. Separation is improved but it’s quite good with stock AMP1MK3 too. I reckon I like Elex’s pairing more with the stock AMP1 MK3.

Sennheiser HD 6XX – For HD6XX, I switch DX240 to High Gain for ease of drivability. HD6XX pairs very well with both AMP1 MK3 and AMP8. It sounds its true neutral self with AMP1 MK3 while AMP8 adds a bit of top end sparkle. I hear better separation, resolution and clarity when compared to pairing with DX160. The soundstage boundaries have better definition with DX240.

IEMs

Softears RS10 – RS10 demands power and DX240 is able to drive it loud levels just via 3.5mm SE in Low Gain. I really like this pairing as I hear a very clean soundstage with very good instrument definition, resolution and a nice black background. Bass is tight and has a very clean presentation without taking anything away from impact.

Softears RSV – This is a really good pairing too. I perceive slightly better technical performance compared other DAPs. RSV is definitely more resolving when paired with DX240. I also perceive richer treble response and very clean and tight bass response. Soundstage feels wider and deeper compared to its pairing with other DAPs in my collection.

Moondrop S8 – I perceive a more open and clean soundstage, which seems consistent across pairings. Treble resolution is very good and midrange sounds better layered and richer. Soundstage boundaries seem wider and deeper, with a blacker background. I also perceive it having better dynamics compared to other DAPs I have.

Lime Ears Pneuma – Right off the bat, I perceive the sub-bass with Bass Switch ON having stronger impact and dynamic punch. Again, Pneuma has a nice clean presentation with DX240 and soundstage width and depth seems enlarged. I perceive a blacker background in this pairing too. Instruments have slightly better definition and the overall mix slightly better separation and layering.

Custom Art Fibae 7 – Fibae7 has a really good soundstage by itself but it shines even better with DX240. I perceive better bass punch, very well layered midrange and richer, more resolving treble when paired with DX240. Soundstage sounds deeper and instrument’s image very well.

ItsFit Fusion – Fusion’s bass punch and impact really shines with DX240. I also perceive a slightly more holographic and deeper soundstage with better balance across the range. Imaging is slightly sharper too.

Tanchjim Prism – I notice more bass rumble with stronger punch right off the bat. Instrument definition and imaging are nice and strong while soundstage sounds holographic with a bit more width and depth than DX160. Really good resolution, clarity and dynamism.

Moondrop Kato – I notice better dynamics and stronger technical performance all across. Bass has better punch as well as clarity, lower-midrange sounds a bit more layered and treble a bit richer. Soundstage boundaries sound wider and deeper too.

iBasso DX240 Solo 3

Quick comparisons with other DAPs.

HiBy R6 2020 – R6 2020 runs Android 9.0, has a Snapdragon 660 SoC, 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM, a 5.0″ 1080p screen, dual ES9038Q2M DAC, quad OPA1612 Op amps, supports DSD512 and PCM768kHz/32Bit, has independent isolated power supplies, supports USB3.1 and Bluetooth 5.0 and has a 4500mAh battery. Tech wise, both have the same SoC but DX240 has the newer flagship DAC – 9038Pro. User experience wise, I find DX240’s ergonomics better because of smaller form factor and curved back design that feels nicer to hold. I also prefer DX240’s volume wheel placement on the side as I can operate it with one hand. Plus DX240 has a much more vibrant screen, which is a joy to use. R6 2020 has a slightly better AnTuTu Benchmark score but in usage, DX240’s UI is more fun to use with similar smooth performance but a nicer and more vibrant screen, which is a joy to use.

Sound wise, DX240 has an even more neutral sound signature with a very slightly wider and deeper soundstage. R6 2020 with some headphones/IEMs sounds slightly brighter than DX240 but it is not significantly so with every transducer. DX240 has a more even, musical and dynamic sound signature in comparison with slightly better resolution overall.

iBasso DX160 – DX160 has a Rockchip Octa-core SoC, 2GB RAM/32GB ROM, dual CS43198 DAC and a 3200mAh battery. Specs wise, there is no competition. DX240 is better in all departments as it is a much faster DAP and has better, more high end technology inside. DX160’s UI is quite sluggish in comparison to DX240’s. Even though DX160 has a very nice 1080p screen, DX240’s screen is even more vibrant and attractive.

Sound wise, DX240 has stronger technical performance all around with a more open and dynamic presentation, a cleaner and more open soundstage and better separation between instruments. I perceive better micro-detail retrieval, especially in bass and treble.

Fiio M11 – M11 has a Samsung Exynos 7872 SoC, dual AK4493EQ DAC, dual OPA1642 Op amps, dual OPA926 Amp, 5.15″ 720p screen, 3GB RAM & 32GB ROM, dual micro-SD slots, 3800 mAh battery, USB2.0 and Bluetooth 4.2 support.

Sound wise, DX240 sounds richer and more musical compared to M11. It has a more dynamic presentation with very good separation between layers as well as stronger bass impact and more detailed treble. M11 comes off a bit dry in comparison.

Conclusion. 

I must say that I quite enjoyed testing and using the DX240. Not only is it a very fast DAP with a vibrant 5.0″ 1080p screen, excellent ergonomics and really good user experience, it is quite the performer in the sound department that completely justifies its co-flagship status in iBasso’s arsenal. It has a very nice, neutral and musical sound signature with very good technical performance and power output figures. On top of it all, the modular amp design adds the icing on the cake and makes it a product that we all can picture having a longer shelf life than the average DAP. Compatible AMP1-AMP8 amp cards give you different tonal and port options to choose from but if you like keeping things simple, the stock AMP1 MK3 performs really well and has everything you need – 2.5mm BAL, 3.5mm PO and 3.5mm LO. If you’re looking for a DAP around the $1000 mark, definitely give DX240 a shot!


Gear used for testing and review.

  • IEMs – Softears RS10 & RSV, Moondrop S8 & Kato, Lime Ears Pneuma, CustomArt Fibae7, ItsFit Fusion and Tanchjim Prism.
  • Headphones – Audeze LCD-X 2021, Focal Elex, iBasso SR2 and Sennheiser HD6XX.

Artists I like.

  • Rock – Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Switchfoot, Imagine Dragons, Daughtry, Green Day, MuteMath, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews Band, Vertical Horizon, Our Lady Peace, Lifehouse, Fall Out Boy, Breaking Benjamin, Muse, ACDC, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Biffy Clyro, I Am Giant, Normandie, Paramore, Slash & Guns N Roses, 3 Doors Down.
  • Pop Rock – John Mayer, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, James Bay, Hunter Hayes, Niall Horan, Keith Urban, The Bros Landreth, Bryan Adams.
  • Progressive Rock/Metal – Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Karnivool, Tool, Dead Letter Circus, Periphery, Lamb of God.
  • Pop/Soft Rock – Ed Sheeran, Adele, Taylor Swift, OneRepublic, The Script, Gavin James, Magic Man, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Oasis, Panic! At the Disco, TwentyOne Pilots.
  • EDM – Chainsmokers, Zedd.

One thought on “iBasso DX240

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