iBasso DX220 Max. Whitigir - Head-fier and modder extraordinaire early views on the Max

Head-fier and DIY modder extraordinaire Whitigir (of iBasso Amp8EX fame) gave me a summary of his current impressions and opinions of the iBasso DX220 Max.

(Ongoing piece)

Sunday June 14th.

Max sound signature

All of these comparisonS and observations were done on low gain and at 150/150 DAC volume with HD800S.  In my opinion, I recommend that setting for the best soundstage and performance.

Clean, fast, dry and some harshness and grain.

The soundstage of width/depth/vertical is the best of any stock Ibasso player yet.  It would sweep the floor with many different stock players.  The soundstage is slightly better than SP2K or up to the same tier, but I give it credit for having better density and meatiness.  However, when compared to the DMP-Z1, the other device that has independent batteries for both the DAC and the amplifier, this vastness of stage are not up to par.  When the comparison were done, the DMP would show its superiority in another tier by showing better cleanliness, great staging

When compared to 1A or 1Z, the Max is vastly superior in its airiness, transient speed, power output, separation and soundstage presentation

Liquidity whilst doing burn in is improving, but for the majority of it when compared to other modified devices such as Dx220EX and Amp8EX, it is still a little lacking and not very satisfying at present.

Vocals are great, especially with female and breathy artists, but not throat, so male vocals are somewhat inaccurate in their portrayal, but none the less, very good presentations.  
String instruments also suffer some of this inaccuracy, Together with the dryness, and neutral signatures, some passages of the music just don’t connect too well as there may appear to be “voids” here and there, mainly the lower sub bass and the upper mid spectrums, and so the Max is a little boring just in my opinion.  

Despite all the “cons or negativities” about the Max, the sound signature of the Max is tuned to follow to the best of the iBasso house sound. 
It is neither the Amp1 MKII sharply detailed with airiness, nor the blooming sub-bass of Amp8, but it is with the separation, soundstage, smoothness of the edges textures of Amp8 and the airiness of the Amp1 MKII. Therefore, if you like the signature of Ibasso house sound, you would love the DX220 Max. 

The background is good and not great.  It is good when compared to other portable players, but when pitted against the DMP and the SP2K, the background of the later 2 shows its greatness.  Especially when speaking of individually packaged batteries with dedicated power rails into the analog sections which are separated and away from the DAC....which can not stand against the SP2K in this level of blackness, I am a little disappointed.

What surprised me the most is that the Max when compared to its little modified EX brother, the DX228EX, the soundstage of the Max is clearly a couple notches ahead, which also makes senses since the SP2K is also 1 notch ahead.  However, neither the SP2K nor the Max is better at density and timbre thickness.  I would rate it so that the density turned out to be DX228EX > Max > SP2K, and whereas the soundstage is Max > SP2K > DX228EX.  
*Please do notice that the DX228EX I mention here is the EX application on both devices of the DX228 (which consists of Dx220 and Amp8).

After analyzing the sound signature in the mean while thinking of a way to open up the Max.  It took me a little while to get around to opening up the back of the MAX and taking out the main boards.  It is much better than your typical smartphones glue and so on, but it is still one heck of a hassle.  Luckily the back glass is very thick and beefy.

After opening up the Max, it has confirmed several findings from the listening sessions:

1/ Main DAC is purely stock DX220.

2/ Different tuning for the Amp8Max VS regular Amp8.

3/ LCD touch screen is directly staying on top of the boards with a clearance of approximately 2mm clearance, without shielding in between.  Which explains the background which can not be said to be as dark as the DMP or SP2K

So, there are ways to improve the MAX, and given the price tag together with the dedicated power rails, the MAX deserves the best of the modifications.  The plan is to execute:

1/. Applying EX modifications to the main unit which is carried from the DX228EX packages.  The main unit improves the separations, airiness, timbres density.  Especially the density of timbre as one of the main goal, but with the added bonuses of soundstage and airiness which is already excellent on the MAX ? Oh please!! I am a soundstage addict.

2/. Taking advantage of the dedicated powerful power rails from the new independent batteries packs, the buffer OpAmps are upgraded to improve linearity.  This together with the density improvements from the main units, the MAX will have a much better fluidity and musicality while sacrificing none of the others highlights.

3/. Applying shielding material which is grounded to the chassis on top of the screen to mitigate the radiations from the generated interferences.  Also applying TDK noise and EMI absorbent sheets to the battery packs to mitigate noises from the batteries with the Copper foils and grounded to the chassis frame to dissipate the noises .  All materials are Copper foils...it would have been great to have the Metal chassis layering to separate the screen away from the mainboard.

4/. Upgrading the Power Supplies interconnect wires from OFC into Pure Silver or Gold-plated Silver to achieve further improvements to take advantages of the dedicated power supplies.  Bus connections remains stock 

5/. Main AmpMax needs to be tuned for deeper sub-bass and density which is following closely to the EX package with some tweaks to aim toward these goals.  Power smoothing bicap is now 470uf and 330uf with TK capacitors, and output caps are still Silmic II.

The result is a much blacker background, improved soundstage sound field presentations, deeper and authoritative sub bass, more body and textures toward the mid bass, improved fluidity and density overall, mid spectrum accuracies are improved, especially string instruments and male vocal by improved inner density across the ranges.  Better back ground blackness, graininess and harshness are now much more comfortably controlled

 Thank you Whitigir for your contribution and thoughts. - Head pie

Paul of iBasso wrote on Head fi:
“ I want to clear up any confusion on the screen. When it is off, there is no current flowing and it is totally off, not just pixels. We also did measurements with it on or off and there is no change. Also please note from the measurements, how low the noise floor of the DX220Max is. 

Please, Enjoy the music and stay safe out there.”

More to come ? I hope so...

Wednesday June 24th

With the release of MAX, a product from Ibasso line up, which has taken the flagship DX220 and pushed it further. It consists of all the favorite features from Ibasso flagship platform, including an upgraded Amp8 and Amp7 architectures. Then topping it off with independent charging circuitries, individual batteries packs, pure and direct voltage without being converted/regulated/bucked up/down voltages feeding the Amplification stages

Still fit well in the palm

I have the pleasure to have gotten a MAX to play with, and when I am enjoying it immensely. I always play my favorite albums.

One of the main reason why I love Ibasso so much is that it has a huge Supporting community together with Ibasso being so enthusiastic and friendly toward the modifications community, firmware and hardware alike.

Coming from my own experiences and tinkering with EX modifications, incoming MAX-EX or simply calling it MAXEX


Before we begin with MAXEX, let me just rephrase some questions and answers from my point of views regarding MAX

1/ Do you have to Modify your MAX ? 
No, you do not have to. No one is forcing you to do anything

2/ What about the performances of Stock MAX ? 

It is Extremely good, as good as at $1899 pricing, I can not find anything to outperform it Stock to Stock, and that includes WM1Z/SP2K, with both devices easily 1.5-2X the prices. That is no easy feast

3/ Why do you Modify your MAX ?

Well, because everyone has a different point of views, personal preferences, experiences, and point of references. I will have to Emphasize the word “Personal Preferences”, and because of that, it is the reason why I publish my modifications and BOM (Bills of Materials), where to buy, so you can follow it and perform it yourself, hence I am a fan of DIY projects. If you are technically inclined, and understand your own preferences very well, then you should be able to modify your own, or tweak your own tuning. If that is the case, please don’t be shy, post it up and share with us all.

An additional point of references is that I use Sony DMP-Z1 as the point of references and tuning, also coming from my personal experiences with tinkering about stuff as well


During the time I am modifying the device, I am very surprised to see the quality of the boards And the rest of the components. It is very good

The back is a thick Corning Glass, and you will need to have proper tools to take it off. Similar to how you would work on it from repairing smartphones screens, only that this is easier

Disclaimers: You are assuming all risks and responsibilities for your own device. Tampering with your device will void the warranty by any manufacturers standards, and I can not be held responsible for whatever damages your device

So, here we go. The primary reasons to modify the MAX for me is simply to get more “meat” :wink:. There are 2 parts that I am going to do

A/ Hardware tunings and upgrades
B/ Heat dissipation

Within the part [A/] we will have 2 parts: Main and Amp. The main is following Dx220 Main EX, and so the pictures is borrowed from @EggofSound . My thanks to you!


You will need


3x of those


2X of those


2X of those


4x of those


4x of those



This is done similarly to the portable little brother Dx220, with the exception of 2 extra electrolytic capacitors. Please be sure to have battery clearances (picture shown the E-CAPs being upgraded before the rest due to progressing, I recommend to do it all at once)

The AmpMax will receive the Upgraded and improved buffering stages together with a different tuning to bring about the characteristics that in my own opinions and experiences are to be good. This buffer is upgraded for the amp-out parts only

It will improve 2 sections that I observed

Linearity which results in thinner timbres density, also the sub bass is too fast and fall down on it faces.

You will need











Small Tantalum caps are removed like Amp8EX at green lines

Purple lines are New Buffers for Amp Out

Blue wires are Power supplies and will be upgraded by Silver Goldplated wires with 2 wires per terminals. Please check continuity and make sure to have not messed up polarity

Black wires are Bus for charging, batteries informations to be displayed in the system. It will remain the same

To further improve the pitch black background.
Noises are radiated from the screen and directed back into the main board throughout, using copper foils with conductive adhesive and make sure to have a good grounding onto the chassis to shunt the interferences. Clear electrical tape on top for safety insulation

Batteries packs will also need TDK sheets to applied on in order to absorb strays noises, and shielded over with copper foils which is grounded to the chassis back plate, following with clear insulation tapes. The Black batteries body doesnt allow me to take clear picture, but it is underneath the copper foils


1 sheet

Heat dissipation

The next steps are to properly dissipate the heat generated from the DAC Chips ES9028Pros and the main CPU chip. I noticed while I was working on the Dx220EX, and also from collective firmwares inputs, the Dx220 Rockchip is capable, but because it gets hot, so it got the firmware to downclock it and make it slower. So helping to dissipate the heat will help, and possibly support the future more aggressive firmwares.

I used the thermal sheets 1000W/m-K After the applications, heats are being distributed toward the main big Chassis more even throughout 


These sheets were cuts carefully (it is easily damaged) with insulation on top of the components on the board to prevent “short” Kapton tapes would do. I used the one that comes with the main boards.
Please be careful that these sheets Remnants are conductive, make sure you don’t leave any debris around

The Line out are using dual DAC at all time and if using it as Single Ended toward SE Line input For SE amplifiers, the MAX is unique and will allow that to be possible due to an extra differential stage

This will also confirm a few questions that people have been asking about the Dual DAC being implemented inside the MAX/220. Is the dual DAC active at all time ? The answer is Yes, only the Amp module are using differential stages to output SE or stay true to the balanced architectures

So that also means that in order to fully enjoy your DAP, Balanced is the best way to go on MAX/220 as it stay true to the Original designs without extra conversions.

The Line Out can only be effected by the DAC volumes and won’t be effected by analog volumes

I would say that I achieved the primary goals and some more: Definitely better tonal body density or Meats, some very nice sub-bass too

The overall presentation is just like DX220EX and Amp8EX but is on a higher level with more controls, separations, imagines, staging. The scale of performances is the same scale up as moving from DX220 Stock and Amp8 stock Into DX220EX and Amp8EX

Please note that MAX is very good, the AMP section is hugely improved Amp7 and Amp8 all in one with upgraded capacitors and designs architecture together with the improved power rails from it independent batteries, and it isn’t necessary to modify the AMPMAX. But definitely the main DAC would need it

Then again, we all have very different point of views, experiences and preferences


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