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Specs

• Headphones impedance: 16~100 Ω

• Output Impedance: <0.1Ω

• Frequency response: Hz~20 kHz (+/-0.1dB)

17 • SNR: -114 dB +/- 1dB (32-Ohm load)
• THD+N: ≤ 0.002% (32-Ohm load)

• Crosstalk: 70 dB (1 kHz 32-Ohm load)

• Lossless formats supported: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD

Packaging

I must admit that this is one of the nicest packaging I’ve come across. iBasso didn’t use  any fancy materials, but the design is quite  interesting. The lid opens at an angle, and the device is situated at this same angle. So what you see is the DX80 being presented to you, rather than it just being kept safe in a box. I genuinely like this as it gives me a sense that iBasso is proud of their device and that your first glimpse of the device to be one of admiration. I think if I had to change 1 thing about the packaging it would be that the compartment for the device would be made of foam rather than cardboard. Foam would just have that extra little bit of premium look and device safety to it.

What’s in the box?

  • iBasso DX80
  • 2x Screen protectors USB cable
  • Black silicon case “Burn-in” cable 3.5mm COAX cable Warranty card
  • Quick start guides

Accessories

Something I’ve come to enjoy about opening the boxes of portable audio players is finding out which goodies they’ve included for me. These can range from useful to rather questionable items
The screen protectors included seem of decent quality, and it’s nice that they include 2 of them.

The silicon case is something I’m not a fan of, but that’s only because of how much lint the damn things collect. The case that comes with the DX80 seems to be of quite good quality actually, and features some very neat seams. So, whilst I don’t like a silicon case, I appreciate that 1 is included to protect my new device while I look for a nicer (perhaps leather) case.

Then we get to the questionable burn-in
cable. I say questionable because I have
searched, yet have never found any conclusive evidence to support the claim that burn-in actually exists and improves the device’s functionality. It kind of seems like it would work on headphones, where movement might help “settle” the drivers and allow them to reach their intended performance. Yet, I’ve seen tests done with headphones for before and after burn-in periods, and there was no change in frequency response. So in the case of non-moving electronics? Burn-in probably does nothing at all. But then again, just because I haven’t found evidence to support the claim doesn’t necessarily mean that it is indeed complete bull dust.

Design:
Body and layout

Ok, so there’s no point trying to beat around the bush…it’s not the prettiest device around, but it is interesting nonetheless. It does feature some rather sharp angles, which doesn’t make it the most comfortable to hold, but not uncomfortable either. My only minor complaint is that the power button sits perfectly flush with the body, which can make it hard to find just by trying to feel for it. The volume rocker is slightly raised, which makes finding the buttons less problematic.

Something that will surely catch your eye are the large play and skip buttons on the front. This has become iBasso’s most iconic design element, and they make for a quick and easy execution of their intended functions. I must admit, though, that I don’t use them as often as I should, simply because I’ve become so accustomed to turning on the screen and using the touch screen on my phone.

Along the top of the device we find the COAX out, micro SD card slots, and micro-USB port. I quite like that the card slots are covered by a protective flap. Here, I have 2 complaints; the micro-USB port isn’t perfectly lined up (which can make removing the cable a little bit troublesome), and that the protective flap for the card slot doesn’t close completely.

 

On the bottom we find the headphone and lineout jacks. They seem quite sturdy, and plugging in a cable is a satisfyingly secure experience. Also, if removing a cable, the music will automatically pause. Something I noticed about the headphone jack is that I could hear absolutely no clicks or pops when inserting or removing a cable.

Whilst the body is entirely made of aluminium, it’s not of a unibody design. It features a very nice soft touch paint finish, however.

So whilst the DX80 does not employ a very
modern build style or design elements, it
certainly does seem to be built like a tank. Seriously, I kept look for a “Military Certified” label somewhere on the device.

Design Screen

The DX80’s screen is pretty darn good, from what I can see. It doesn’t look overly saturated nor washed out, and has a decent pixel density. Only if you look at the screen really close up will you see any signs of pixilation. But, it’s a music player, you’re not going to be staring at the screen for extended periods of time. Something else I absolutely love is the fact that it’s got a touch screen. Touch screens are modern, it’s what people have become used to, and there’s no reason to force them to interact with the device in any other manner.

User Interface

The DX80’s UI isn’t the most intuitive…well, not at first anyways. The Now Playing screen is actually the home screen, but there is no indication of what to do in order to get to any of the menu items or how to browse for music. To get to these you have to swipe right in order to access the music menu, and swipe left in order to get to the settings. The quick settings can be accessed by swiping from the top down from any screen. However, this is where the swiping ends. Once you enter any of the menu items, in order to get back to the previous screen you have to tap on the little back arrow at the top left. This can be rather confusing at times as there doesn’t seem to be much uniformity with how you interact with the UI, but you do get used to it fairly quickly. The other thing that I had to get used to is, even though the DX80’s operating system is a flavour of Android, the swiping gestures don’t quite work the same way that you might be accustomed to on your phone. When I tried to swipe either left or right from the Now Playing screen, I instinctively tried to drag from the very edge of the screen inwards. This, I found, often lead to the gesture not being recognised. Instead you should swipe more from the centre of the screen and then outwards. This was another area where I found a bit of an inconsistency, as this method does not work for the quick settings panel. For the quick settings panel you should swipe from the top edge of the screen downwards, as you would to access your notifications panel on Android. There is also a bit of a delay once you’ve swiped and the next menu actually appears, but no so much so that it frustrates you. This is the biggest difference that I’ve found between the DX80’s UI and the UI found on Fiio’s devices; at no point did I feel frustrated. A user’s frustration with a device can make or break their experience with that device, and thankfully the DX80 was at no point frustrating for me to use. Some things, like having to press the tiny back arrow, is annoying, but by no means an absolute frustration. Whilst the swiping gestures can seem to have a bit of a delay, the rest of the tapping actions on the screen are fairly responsive. Don’t expect the same level of responsiveness that you would find on your phone; but for what the device is, it’s perfectly acceptable.

DX80 Sound

One of the things that intrigued me most about the DX80 is its dual DAC implementation. What iBasso did here was to install 2 of the highly regarded CIRRUS CS4398 DAC chips. I believe they’ve used one per channel (left and right). The result? Nothing but pure, awesome, audio nirvana. Honestly, the clarity, separation, and layering is quite something to experience.

Our brains are exceptionally sensitive to time delays between sounds as it relies on this information to process where the sound is coming from, how close it is to you, and (if it is moving) in which direction it is going.
The other aspect to think of is what I like to call the beatboxer effect: it can seem like beatboxers can produce a great number of sounds at exactly the same time, but in reality it is physically impossible to create more than 1 sound at a time. Instead, what beatboxers do is to fool your brain by carefully spacing each sound from one another so that your brain forms a few rhythms based on similar sounds. In the end, to you, it sounds like they’re producing many sounds at the same time, but it’s just because your brain is assuming there are multiple rhythms going on at the same time. Perhaps the DX80’s DACs are doing something very similar, which results in a particularly nice and convincing separation and layering.

When you put all of this together, what you get is a sound that doesn’t seem like it’s just coming from the 2 speakers in your headphones, but rather that each voice and instrument has its own place on the sound stage.
But perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the DX80’s sound is the stage width and details.

A set of cans that I feel are ridiculously underrated for their sheer accuracy is the Audio-Technica M40X. Connected to the DX80 these headphones did not disappoint and the entire spectrum sounded accurate, full, and engaging.

My favourite pairing, however, was with the Pinnacle P1. I’m pretty sure if they had a mosquito in the recording booth you’d be able to hear its heartbeat. The sum of all this is not just an absolute enjoyment in an incredibly engaging sound experience, but a total rediscovery of your music. As I listened to various tracks, I was genuinely impressed with how many details I had either never heard before, or had never heard so clearly. By that I mean very subtle details that I’ve heard before, but could never really tell what they were. Specific instrument sounds,

such as the metallic texture of guitar or violin strings, or the brassiness of cymbals comes across clearly. Think of when you tap on glass and on Perspex. Both materials look strikingly similar, but it’s in the subtle details of the sound they give off that we can distinguish between the textures. It’s those subtle details that come across wonderfully with the DX80, and given life by the Pinnacle P1.
The overall sound signature is ever so slightly warm, and I must admit that I found the entire experience to be exceptionally similar to what I felt and heard with the Chord Mojo. You’re not hit with a wall of awesome sound, but rather an epic presentation, as if the artist is performing just for you. Binaural recordings such as Amber Rubarth’s Sessions from the 17th Ward are especially incredible. You don’t get that sense of “music playing in my head” either, but rather that the performance is happening around you.

The DX80 also offers 2 different “filters”, namely Slow and Sharp. From my understanding this has to do with how the sound is rolled off below 20Hz and above 20kHz. From what I heard, Slow seemed to give a bit of a wider sound stage, but vocals seemed further away as compared to Sharp. I found that I preferred Sharp.

Will ibasso DX80 improve my audio experience?

This is always a difficult matter to judge, and entirely depends on what you’re looking for in a portable audio player. If you are the type of person who enjoys rocking out to music for the beat…well then, probably not. But in the same breath, I’m not sure why you’d even be looking at getting a player capable of playing lossless audio; just stick to a regular ol’ MP3 player (or your phone) and call it a day.

However, if you’re the type of person who genuinely enjoys listening to music as a presentation and art form rather than a mere rhythm, or perhaps wondering if there is more to hear from your favourite music…then it will almost certainly improve your appreciation of your music. I say “almost certainly” as it will depend on what portable setup you already have. Suffice to say, I haven’t heard a better sounding player at this price point yet. With the DX80 you don’t feel like you’re simply listening to music, but rather that you’re being immersed into it. Even players that go beyond this price will most likely only give you very minor improvements (if any at all). In fact, I’ve listened to players that cost considerably more than the DX80 that have left me feeling quite underwhelmed.

The main reason for me wanting to review the DX80 was because I was torn between either getting the DX80, or getting Fiio’s new X1 and coupling it with my existing E12A. in terms of overall functionality and features, the X1 does offer quite a bit more, and the X1+E12A combo sounds wonderful. But the DX80 on its own is just on a completely other level. I must admit that I was secretly hoping that I’d hear practically no difference between the DX80 and the X1+E12A combo to justify it to myself that there was absolutely no reason to spend 3 times the cost of the X1 to get the DX80. But after spending the last week with the DX80 there simply is no fooling myself…the DX80 wins hands down by an incredible margin.

Pros&Cons

Pros 

  • Fantastic value
  • Incredible sound at this price point Great build quality
  • Touch screen
  • Fairly easy to navigate UI
  • Dual card slots

Cons 

  • Touch screen can sometimes feel just a little unresponsive No Bluetooth or Wifi

Rating

As far as the rating is concerned, I’ve devised a new system for myself. This first is a 100-point rating of the device as a whole. This is an attempt to take every aspect of the device into account.
The second is a 50-point rating which focuses solely on the device as a portable HiFi music player, disregarding all the (essentially) unnecessary bells and whistles such as packaging, accessories, and wireless connectivity, for example.

Packaging 

Look and feel: 4.5 / 5

Total: 4.5 / 5 

Included Accessories 

Screen protector: YES Protective case: YES Cables: YES
Total: 3 / 3 

Build 

Metal body: YES
Use of glass: YES
Comfortable to hold: YES Comfortable button layout: YES Premium look and feel: YES Excellent quality control: – Screen Quality: 9.5 / 10
Touch screen: YES
Multiple colour options: – Total: 15.5 / 18 

Sound 

Plays lossless audio: YES Plays 24bit resolution: YES Sound Quality: 9.5 / 10 Total: 11.5 / 12 

Portability 

Small size: 8 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: YES
Has ultra-low power consumption mode: – Total: 17 / 22 

Connectivity 

Bluetooth: –
Apt-X: –
WiFi: –
Can be controlled via headphone remote: – Can be controlled wirelessly: –

Can be controlled wirelessly while connected to other wireless device: – Lineout: YES
Digital output: YES (2)
Balanced output: –

USB DAC functionality: YES
Universally accepted PC connection: YES Accepts microSD card: YES (2)
Multi Gain: YES
Total: 8 / 13 

User Interface 

Easy to use: 4.5 / 5 Intuitive: 4 / 5 Responsive: YES Interesting design: – Multiple themes: – Total: 9.5 / 13 

Value 

Competitive price-point: YES Relative value: 10 / 10 Total: 11 / 11 

Manufacturer 

Has good reputation: YES
Sells useful optional accessories for the device: – Provides software updates for the device: YES Total: 2 / 3 

Overall Rating: 8.2 / 10 

Portable Hi-Fi Rating 

Sound 

Plays lossless audio: YES Plays 24bit resolution: YES Sound Quality: 9.5 / 10 Total: 11.5 / 12 

Portability 

Small size: 8 / 10
Relatively low weight: 8 / 10
Battery life more than 10 hours: YES
Has ultra-low power consumption mode: – Total: 17 / 22 

Connectivity 

Lineout: YES
Digital output: YES (2) Balanced output: –
Accepts microSD card: YES (2) Multi Gain: YES
Total: 6 / 5 

Value 

Competitive price-point: YES Relative value: 10 / 10 Total: 11 / 11 

Overall Rating: 9.1 / 10 

Value

Let’s face it, it’s a fair amount of cash to drop on a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth or WiFi functionality, nor does it play videos…or anything else other than music. But holy damn does it do its only job exceptionally well. Basically, what you get is an exceptionally well-built, [fairly] easy to navigate, fantastically sounding DAP. Personally, I think it’s worth every penny.

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