After weeks of speculating on the specification and price, the much-awaited iBasso DX100 DAP was finally made available on the 19th of January. Despite the high pricing of 699 USD (and that's after discount), the very first batch of 40 units were sold out in less than 20 minutes after announcement! I have great confidence in iBasso products as I had used a couple of their amplifiers. I was lucky enough to secure a unit and received it on 2nd day of Chinese NY (less than a week)! Thanks iBasso and DHL!
The DX100 attracted much attention because it uses a high-end ES9018 Sabre DAC chip. It also supports bit-for-bit up to 24bit/192KHz high-resolution music files in most popular lossless format, yes, that includes the infamous ALAC! Freedom for Apple users!. Last but not least, it also has digital output via coaxial and optical and comes with 64GB storage space, making it a powerful transport. This is a bold move by iBasso as careful implementation is crucial to extract the best performance from the DAC chip and other components.
Disclaimer: I had only previously used setup such as iPhone/iPod with iBasso amps and I will sell away one setup before getting the next. Thus, my comment on sound quality is purely base on memory, so take it with pinch of salt.
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In terms of packaging, I expected the item to come in a pretty big box but when I received the bundle, it was bigger than I thought. The box is well padded and looks good, although definitely not up to Ortofon eQ-7 packaging standard. First layer housed the DAP only and upon lifting the first layer, you will see the other items - power adaptor, USB and coaxial cable. There was no user manual provided and iBasso should come up with a manual to help with familiarizing with the custom player in the DX100.
Built-wise, it is simply fantastic, as evident from the recent range of products such as D12, P4, D7 etc. In my opinion, it looks far better than the brick-like Hifiman HM801 and a lot less flamboyant than the Colorfly C4. The top and bottom halves are made of aluminium alloy and securely put together. I don't think anyone will be able to tell the difference between this and other Made-In-Japan/Germany products. However, I think iBasso should provide a plug/cover for the 6.3mm port.
Listening to it out of the box with my 1964 Ears quad driver customs and stock cable (still waiting for my Twag to come back from RMA), I can only say that the headphone out is already good enough to trump my previous setups such as iPhone 4 + D12 via LOD and better H120 + D10 via optical. I do not hear any noise/hiss when the DX100 is switched on and not playing music. It is more musical sounding and has bigger and convincing sound stage than both setups and DX100 is almost as clean-sounding as the H120 + D10 via optical. Listening to the same classical tracks on DX100 is more enjoyable due to the added depth in sound stage. It is also capable of driving HD600 and LCD 3 to satisfying level. I do not own the Hifiman HM-801 or the Colorfly C4 so I will not be able to make any comparison. The downfall of such a powerful performance is the short battery life (around 6-8 hours) and bulk (about 3x thickness of iPhone 4).
The media player (written specifically for iBasso) is still a little quirky but has most basic functions such as EQ, filters and SRC. The bugs are just minor annoyances and does not affect me enjoying the music. iBasso is currently working hard to resolve the issues reported by the early adopters.
So far, I am very satisfied with the sound quality of the DX100 as it is musical, great transparency, has a convincing and enveloping atmosphere, great sound stage (actually adding depth to my 1964 Ears customs) and 3D presence. To me, it is a great all-in-one alternative to carrying DAP + LOD + Amp which may cost significantly more (of course, depends on setup) and much bulkier. Assembling the H120 + D10 + optical setup cost me about 600+ SGD and the DX100 (at discounted price) is about 900 SGD. Is DX100 worth the $300 more? Absolutely, so much so that I had not bothered to look at other equipment since getting the DX100.