iBasso DX220 Max unveiling and early impressions (updated)


iBasso DX220 Max - excellent with headphones or IEMs.


iBasso DX220 Max
Some pretty photos to kick things off and i will be adding to this page as i gather impressions.

UPDATE: initial ongoing impressions added at the end. (Updated 6/13/2020).

Impressions by Head-fier modder extraordinaire  Whitigir added /6/14

Wifi tests added:

So far so brilliant. I had a wonderful listening experience earlier on and can’t wait to a/b it with the DX220 to make sure my ears were not tricking me.

I will spare you the audio word salad...for now.




Earlier news and information here:



iBasso DX220 Max manual:
- it is very detailed and comprehensive.






‘ The DX220 Max is a transportable solution to your audio needs. It offers extremely high performance to enhance what you enjoy so much, music! It is powerful, very transparent and engineered to work with most any listening device.

A great partner with the DX220 .

1. The frame is stainless.
2. Dual ES9028pro chips are used with extremely high quality components surrounding them.
3. A battery for the DAC and CPU, the rest (4pcs) of the batteries form a high voltage battery pack for analog stage. 
4. Analog volume control. 

-iBasso’




Three little baggies. What secrets do they hold?





A beautiful case



A bevy of cables for - USB-C to USB-A  cable  for charging/data transfer/Max as external storage/connect to an OTG storage device/USB dac with a computer, line out, burn in cable, 2.5mm to 4.4mm adapter and  a coaxial cable (the same port can be used with a mini optical cable).



The USB C is for the digital section and the other 4 batteries are for the amplifier. They both have to be charged. They are totally different sections, isolated for improved sound. Paul - iBasso’

Analog section charger.



Plugs are region based - so do buy from
an official distributor to be sure and also for after sales service.



<<<plus are region based.  (Terrible semi photo shop job)  :)

More detailed photos of the Charger near the end of the article >>>. Scroll down.









DX220Max. 144 x 84 x 27 mm
or 5.7 x 3.3 x 1 inch.

Weight 700g or 1.5 pounds.

(Basically two diet coke cans in weight).

















Size comparison with the DX220 vs DX220 Max












User interface

A familiar user interface to those who have an iBasso dap. But still interesting to note the similarities and also to show for those new to iBasso daps.

















Scanning is speedy.











Gorgeous screen



APKPure and CoolApk for downloading all your application needs.



UI video



Settings etc



DAC volume slider. Thats something new.
Recommend setting is between 132-150 for best results.















Wifi is set to off below.
With my experience of the Max (and other iBasso daps) it is better to use 5GHz wifi rather than 2.5GHz - it is faster on this system.



Wifi 5GHz



Wifi 2Ghz





Drop down menu







Additional insertion 
Bluetooth Codec settings under Developer mode:



APKPure and CoolApk for all your application downloading needs.





Gorgeous screen of sweet delights.








The DX220 Max does not come with front screen protector installed. 
Be careful as there is one already applied on the back. 
There are two supplied though - as below.




Some dap boudoir shots









Sound

This will be updated - so please scroll down for more recent impressions.


Initial impressions - Thursday June 4th.

Very early, so please wait for more in depth analysis after more listening sessions.


Quick (early) sound impressions.

iBasso DX220 Max

(no a/b comparison to DX220 yet).

DX220 Max low gain/ brick wall filter. Android side.
Campfire Audio Anrdromeda (V3- 2019).
Stock cable, final audio tips. 3.5mm Single ended.

Beck - ‘Sea Changes’
Nice tonality. Excellent imaging. Spacious sound stage (ie it does not choke the Andromeda potential and allows for it).
Medium gain adds a little more something something into the mids.
I am not a ‘hiss meister’ but so far so good - Perhaps a tad on the Andros.

Playing from a Micro SD Card, now thinking i should have loaded up to the internal memory - just to be safe...

Billie Eilish - ‘Dont smile at me ep’.
Campfire Audio Ara.

It is quite a reference player. Not dry as DX200 with amp1, nor as full bodied edging on dark at times as Amp 8, maybe, perhaps a mix of Amp1mk2 and Amp8ex.

Hiss seems to dissipate after a few songs. Maybe the amp set needs a warm up. Certainly i have not ‘broken in’ the dap within only 24 hours. The DX220 Max has less than 5 hours on it. For some reason i neglected to leave it playing over night.
I found the DX220 to benefit from getting a good number of hours on it.

Back to the CA Ara. Quite a good match for this dap. A reference earphone, with a wide soundstage, lots of air and separation,exquisite details.

Swapping cables from
3.5mm to 4.4mm balanced stock cable.

Noticeably louder (of course). A bit more smooth and coherent. Vocals more sweeter and treble more extended.

Playing with the DAC volume. I will have to check the manual.

It seems to more IEM friendly with the DAC volume turned down. But i can not say for sure at this point.

CA Solaris 2020
Not such a sensitive set of IEMs. Dap is quieter.

shuffle time:

OK. focussing back on the dap as i have a nice reference point with the IEMs.

The music - does it sound as it should? Yes, to my ears.

Looking for any shortcomings sound wise.
- I can note a few points in bass control, treble reach and coherency that will smooth out after 24-50 hours. Probably the DX220Max would require 100 hours to reach a marked satisfying delivery and 200-250 to reach peak performance.

Don’t get me wrong is it very good out of the box. And i am being hyper analytical here. But within time it will be great and then excellent. The same journey as the DX220.

But putting time frames aside. Out of the box it is pretty damn good.
Smooth but not dull, detailed yet not dry, Sabre without the glare (which most developers cleared up two - three years back anyway), warm but not muddy, air without losing body, treble extended without sibilance...and so on...

Ok.
A quick DX220 Max versus a well used DX200 with stock amp1mk2.
(Amp 8 and amp8ex to follow in due course).

Very similar beasts in tonality and resolution.
I can detect a bit more control on the DX220 Max.

ok i am going to get some more hours on this and get back to you all over t he weekend with something more solid- once i clock up more hours.

*please excuse my messy first impressions response.



I will leave you with an earlier quote:


“Paul from iBasso on Head-fi forums:

“I want to clear up any misconceptions. The DX220 Max is not a replacement for the DX220. The DX220 is a transportable DAC/AMP with a very fine screen. It is larger and heavier than the DX220 so serves a different purpose but like all our products it is being produced to enhance your enjoyment of music.”


Updated:

Saturday June 6th. (Morning)

Around 50 hours (early days).

I noticed that treble had started opening opening up more. 

In consequence the lows seemed a bit diminished in comparison. No warmth, linear to high focussed.

I did recall that the iBasso DX220 needed a decent amount of hours on it.

(Evening).

The DX220 Max seems to have settled in a bit more after a good days burn in.

Sunday June 7th. (Morning).

Approximately 70-75 hours or so.

The treble has either settled, or more likely that the treble now has more control, the mids have matured a bit more as well as some of the low end.

A similar sound to out of the box but with better tonality and body (getting there).
Extremely resolving and excellent imaging.

Still a little ways to go to optimum performance. I will listen some more over a morning coffee then back to burn in with the supplied cable.

Looking forward to the 100 - 150 hours mark.


More impressions to come!


Tuesday (Morning) June 9th, 2020.

Well color me surprised (well not really based on my past experience of other iBasso daps).

Out of the box, sufficient and impressive - but i knew more was to come, later opened up a wee bit, then the treble, then evened out a bit more...

Now at 100 - 120 hours roughly of listening and using the supplied burn in cable via the 4.4mm port it has reached a more mature and refined stage. Enough to huck it into a shoulder bag and commute to work.

The slight floor noise at the beginning with highly sensitive IEMs has lessened to next to nothing

There is more an encompassing sound, the IEMs i am demoing with today Campfire Audio Ara, Solaris 2020, Andromeda V3 (2019) and Andromeda MW10 are performing well with no apparent restrictions which might happen with a lesser dap due to power, low quality inner electronics or lack of coherent delivery.

By the way with the Ara and the MW10 i am using the balanced port 4.4mm which might be a bit powerful for many IEMs but yesterday i commuted with the DX220/Amp8EX...so..(too lazy to change the cables)...but its a good hiss check.

Listening to Becks ‘Sea Change’ album which is well recorded and has a pleasant tonality and enough variation.

The single ended port itself is quite magnificent which is the case for a few totl daps. But this is not an either or as in some daps. Both the single ended and 4.4mm are excellent.

The 4.4mm has an output of 8.8VRMS which is pretty hefty for IEMs, especially sensitive ones.
The single ended port at 4.4VRMS Might be a better choice for some easier to drive multi BA earphones - but one will no doubt experiment to find the right match and synergy.

Why no headphones tested today? I have tried it a good 50 hours back with the Campfire Audio Cascade, iBasso SR1, ATH-ESW11 (yep still got them) and ATH-A900 but today the temperature is reaching 30 and summer has not even hit properly yet - and i am trying to build up some heat endurance...so no air conditioning.

Plus i wanted to get more hours on the DX220 Max before hand. Maybe one evening this week when its cool will be headphone redux v2.

With IEMs the volume pot/wheel on low gain (dac volume at 141) goes up more than enough to wreck your ears - plenty of room to move. I have it at 11:00 on low gain with the Solaris 2020.

Clear, precise, a beautiful  low end has come into play, the mids are maturing, treble seems to have found it place in the scheme of things and settled down.

Sound stage is largely up to the IEMs - but i sense no diminishing of their utmost ability.

Imaging is precise, tonality will mature with a few more hours, nearly there.

More to come soon...!


Wednesday June 10th, 2020.

I took the DX220 Max on a tour of Tokyo. I took the Andromeda MW10 and also Campfire Audio Ara with me.

This was less and exercise in sound changes but more as a Transportable versus portable experiment. 
I mainly carrier it in my front jeans pocket, heavier of course than the DX220, but manageable. Although a shoulder bag, or backpack would be more fitting. Nevertheless i managed without much discomfort to negotiate my way across Tokyo and back home again.

I suspect the coming Japan summer will render such daring experiments void and the preferable place at that stage would be within a bag. The DX220 Max is about two diet coke cans in weight.

Sound - dunno.



Friday June 18th, 2020. mid afternoon.

From Tuesday to now the hours have increased from 100 - 120 to around 165- -185 hours of listening and burn in.

I am quite curious to get started and see where we are at.

Here we go...

Circling back around to the initial test set up

DX220 Max low gain/ brick wall filter. Android side.
Campfire Audio Andromeda (V3- 2019).
Stock cable, final audio tips ( i prefer Spiral dot ++ for my wider CA nozzle but i am using the Final Audio tips so others can replicate my findings, or not...), 3.5mm Single ended. 

Beck - ‘Sea Changes’.

The DX220
max seems to have settled down nicely.
It seems like from memory (i am trying to avoid my notes) that the DX220 Max started off quite nicely and competently... but just was not ‘there’ yet.

From a reasonably enjoyable flat with resolving nature at the start, to an increase in the treble, which was slightly alarming at first to the mids coming into play and finally the bass coming more fully into play - i think the bass will open up even more.

Its is a reference player in the meaning that it plays back your files as one expects the music to sound, there is a whisper of added dynamics- but nothing too colored as such.

Vocals are centered within the skull and expand out slightly. 
Tonality is excellent - earphone dependent. Better the earphone l, better the recording, better the result with the DX220 Max - not so forgiving with bad gear.
Sound stage is once again the area of the earphones - but the DX220 Max allows them to perform at their maximum ability, couple that with high performing imaging and it is an aural delight for the ears.

It certainly is an incredible sounding machine.

Next up with be some a/b-ing against DX220/amp 8 and amp ex and then revisiting it again at around 250 hours which i suspect will be the sweet spot - and everything past that will be a bonus for the ears.



Saturday morning, June 13th.

Jamato08 on Head-fi wrote: 
“More time on the Max. Well over 200 hours. Yesterday, I didn't care for it a lot. Dry sounding and a little grainy on the upper mids, just not liquid, smooth or fluid. Of course still burning in. Today, so much different. Violin is back to sounding wonderful, openness and musical expression is all there and dynamics to startle. The noise floor is so low as what noise I do hear is in the recording and not from the Max. One thing that continues is the extreme unbridled openness of the sound, just a joy.

The Max really does take some time to settle in. Got to just keep letting it run or listen and know it will take some time but it is really worth it and power all IEMs and headphones from one device, is also very enjoyable. I am also surprised by the battery life. And on we go. . .”



i read this and was... um... yeah..

.. it was the word ‘liquid’. Trigggggerrredd!!! :)

...then I listened this morning with an extra 13 hours or so - and yep. You are right on the money (As usual).


I had a listen last night - the Max was getting there at 165-195 hours or so roughly - but wasn’t enough at that point to put a flag in ground and say ‘aim here!’. Some things did not sound right, rough around the edges.


This morning after another 13 hours of burn in - it is sounding nearly there at around 200 hours - the word ‘liquid’ or liquidity sums it up well - as Jamato08 stated.

I suspect 200 hours is a mile stone and 250 will about reasonably finish it off.

But the DX220 Max will probably keep improving.

Max definitely has more ‘liquidity’ today compared to even last night.
I was enjoying it - but it was not ‘there‘.

It didnt have that premium sound feel.

This morning i think it has reached a point where the sound is just going to keep improving as a coherent whole, whereas up to now the changes and improvements have been here and there. It seems to be stitching itself together like Dr.Manhattan in the Watchmen comics.

Without getting into any more specifics except to again repeat/paraphrase  Jamato08   ‘From dry to liquidity’ Is certainly true and a pleasure.

I feel as though i am moving past the point of listening for burn in changes to listening tot he music.

Its certainly a dreamy device, i have rotated the four earphones i was using last night Campfire Audio Solaris 2020, Andromeda 2020, Ara and Andromeda MW10.
My experience from then to now is quite the chasm of difference of experience.

Aim for 200 hours using the burn cable...at the very least!

Additional:

Its not amp 8 for sure at 200 hours
Its not amp1mrkii either
A kind of a mix of them as i thought at the start
Approaching amp8ex perhaps?

But only an a/b with DX220 plus amps and Max will reveal that.

Maybe tonight or tomorrow i will try all three amps versus the DX220 Max as i feel it has enough hours on it.


Now i am just trying to understand and find the words to articulate the present sound.


More to come!



Sunday morning June 14th, 2020.

Using the same four Campfire Audio IEMs to have a bit of continuity.

Ara - reference/studio, articulate.
MW10 - linear/flat with dynamism.
Andromeda 2020. Slight w, warm.
Veering more towards to linear than past v shaped OG. andros.
Solaris 2020 - holographic, bass - hybrid, coherent.

At around 220 hours at a rough guess
there have been a few micro improvements. At this point overall the dap has settled down rather well and i am not expecting any major changes at this point - but i could be wrong.

Fluidity and liquidity have improved since yesterday a bit more. 
It could do with more ‘timbres density’ as Head fier Whitigir basically stated.

Upping the volume does not give an illusion of greater density as with cheaper daps (Usually more of a mush, than a dense clarity). Just a louder version of what is delivered at low volume. Its consistent. 

The sound is a nice mix of Amp1mk2 and amp7/8 with some tweaks - but it is still revealing itself. I am just documenting the journey and hope to write a summary eventually when all is settled down.

Low gain at present gives a spaciousness and wide sound stage with sweet air and treble approaching reference with a hint of color.

Mid gain is only a slight rise in volume (High is a bigger jump) and the mids come up more to the vocals giving an illusion of more density.

Using Campfire Audio Cascade with SXC-8 conclusions were largely the same as with the IEMs (4.4mm and 3.5mm - with adapter - ports).

Sunday afternoon

Swapping over to Final Audio A8000 for something different. Now it seems to be a bit more settled.
Also playing around with different tracks and various artists.

A bit more lower end coming up, a bit of density and coherent complexity?

I hope so.

(i switched back to the familiar Andro 2020 at this point to check it was not the A8000 fooling me).

I do believe the mids are coming into play.

I may have jumped the gun on nearing the burn in and maturation process...

More to come !

Wednesday evening June 17th.

About 300 hours now on the iBasso DX220 Max.
I seem to have to jumped past the 250
time mark due to work etc.

Just listening to music now. It seems to have settled in.
A nice mix of Amp1mk2/ Amp 8 and Amp8EX with a bit of tuning.

It really is a premium player.

It has wifi and Bluetooth but i would think the best uses would be to use the onboard memory or a micro sd card and listen to it wired through headphones or earphones. 
Or use its dac via line out to a home system.

There will be probably still be incremental improvements and nuances noticed over time.
But at this stage i am just listening to the sweet music that is coming from this device.

Its appears complete now. But i am not adverse to any new sonic surprises. But for now it sounds like a well tuned coherent whole.

It is well balanced between reference and dynamic. It sets itself at a nice balance between the various tuning extremes and somehow manages to unite the opposites seamlessly.

The soundstage of earphones is super wide with the right earphones, the vocals extra centered and then expanding out also - quite a feat. Treble is candy sweet and extends to aural infinity - but ever so smooth with it to.
Tonality is pure bliss.
Imaging is clear and precise. Timbre a late comer to the game is exquisite.
The bass is full and oh so satisfying.
The separation is emphasized due the large soundstage possible and is akin to being in a large hall.
Male and female vocals are equally served well - pure beauty manifested.

It really is a divine experience. 

Overly waxing lyrical here - but as one who grew up on music magazines and newspapers with band interviews and gig reviews, struggled with cassettes and lovingly wiped each vinyl lp before playing and crafted mix tapes off  the radio - i do review the gear bu the music listening experience is always fore front in my mind. 

The moment when the gear is so good that one stops listening to the gear - and just disappears falling into the music.

That is the moment, when the gear is no longer there as such, it being purely a vehicle for the enjoyment of the music.

When the music only remains one knows the gear is near perfection.

That is the DX220 Max.

More to come?...?...

Thursday 18th evening

Back on the sober mind trail after last night allowing myself to gush and enjoy with superlatives etc.

And why not. Even an enthusiast pseudo reviewer needs to step in rather than step back now and again.

Today i took it on a train commute with the Dita Dream XLS, Final Audio A8000 in the morning and Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 in the afternoon.

Still very enjoyable. I carried it in my front jeans pocket. Slightly warm, nothing major - playing FLAC files from a micro SD Card.

The isolation of the earphones was fairly good. I have lots of tips to choose from for a good fit.
Nevertheless the vibration etc of a train intervenes somewhat and some of the timbre detail was lost, and subtle nuances of songs.

Listening now later in the evening (at home)  i am back to where i was last night - but with a more quieter mouse like writing style.

Everything is still wonderful.

The Max shines of course in a quiet setting where all its technical ability can proceed unimpeded by surrounding noise that may seep into the listeners ear canals no matter how well they fit their earphones.

I am finding pleasure in these before sleep listening sessions of late.

Pure.

And i think i have reached the end of the impressions....


Next: DX220 Amp1mk2, amp8 and Amp8EX comparisons....


Sunday June 20th, morning...

I feel like i am chasing jamato08
on head-fi who got his unit earlier...

Is that density i am hearing?

(Nearing 400 hours).

Chasing the aural rainbow continues...?...

Continued...



The Return of the Zing 
July 4th, Saturday morning coffee...

I have purposely left the iBasso DX220 Max alone for a good few days and have been listening to other devices, for fun and future reviews - to get a bit of distance and return with fresh ears.

Sitting here on my couch whilst my family is asleep, a great coffee and rain falling outside i rediscovering more clearly what the Max is after a period of not being bathed in a daily diet of it.

A very pure sound, exquisite tuning, extremely coherent and hard to find fault with the sound itself. It approaches a reference sound but without the accompanying dryness which can be a natural addition to that sort of tuning.
It has enough subtle body to please, controlled and revealing, detailed and yet smooth.

It is not going to magically make badly mastered or recorded tracks sound better, but will reveal their shortcomings. Great recordings will shine and bring enjoyment.

Some physical buttons for skipping songs etc would be nice. But i guess its not that kind of dap. Twister6 worked out a few work arounds using a bluetooth remote - i would like to be able to do it via my cellphone.

I am also finding my listening levels are lower with the DX220 Max (using a spl meter).

its a quiet rainy morning at home and the surrounding everyday noise is about the same as my listening level atm.

i will do a comparison with DX220 also and see if there is any difference.

Its another plus of decent earphones and daps, the listening levels go down in volume compared to finding satisfaction with entry level gear.

which is an often overlooked important benefit.

With the Max the listener is left with the music, and the quality is dependent on the recording and the earphones being used.
The Max has its competitors (and siblings) out there and comparisons will surface in time - although on a few forums owners of other totl daps have written favorably (i would like to read more).

In short: the enjoyment continues unabated.

The iBasso DX220 Max continues to impress.
This continued write up being testament to my positive experience.



Sunday

I commected the Max to my home system via the 4.4mm line out with great success.

My home system has a AKM dac and is velvety and forgiving.

The Max produced a more reference, clean and high end sound. The line out option allowing me to use the Max’s dac.

I listened happily for a few hours until the lids tv time forced me to turn off music for a while...

On headphones and IEM useage: 

Well i suppose the question of IEMs is a legimate question for many people.

how is the Max with IEMs?
It is a larger device - is it designed/meant for Head phones only?

The Max main board is built around or near identical to DX220 as @Whitigir (Head-fier) has found by opening it (the Max)...and then also modding it.
- The amp part is based largely on Amp 8 architecture - with different tuning.


Amp 8 - probably the most recommended stock amp module (DX200/220) has 4.4mm at 6.2Vrms Output voltage.

*Amps 1,2,5,7 have around 3.0-3.5Vrms

Amps 3,4,8 have 6.0 - 6.2Vrms

The Max has:
SE 4.4Vrms
4.4mm HP out 8.8Vrms

So SE headphone out on the Max is even less powerful.(than amp modules 3,4,8).

And the SE is very capable.

myself - i have have largely been using IEMs around the same price range Campfire Audio Andromeda 2020, Solaris OG/2020, Ara, Gold...
- others such as Dita Dream XLS, CA MW10 and Final Audio A8000 which are closer or the same $ as the Max.
(SE and Balanced).
- plus a few low to mid range for general testing purposes.

Headphones mainly CA Cascade and iBasso SR1 (4.4mm) and also SE, SE mainly ATH-ESW11 and ATH-A900.


The Max is very capable and plays well with IEMs of a similar level. Both in 4.4mm or 3.5mm. I think the 3.5mm sounds great myself and one does not need to default to 4.4mm.

Three gain settings, DAC volume being able to be changed and also the analog volume wheel make this dap very versatile.





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.

Sunday June 14th.

Here:




 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.”





This is the way the case goes,
But you could also flip it so as to lock in the micro sd card. I guess.







Inner pamphlet details.









Ooh.
Not a nice pretty photo. But practical. Shows the two charges in tandem charging up the end game beast.

USB-C charge light/icon is on the right, like the DX220

Analog section charge icon is on the left. Take care.



More detailed photos of the charger:







Reviewer Audio123 plug>>>



Screen size DX220 and  DX220 Max







CPU comparisons - forgive me if i am
wrong. Noob desu. Using CPU info app.





Pocketable?

Yes and no. The DX220 Max is a transportable dap. More a carry in a bag with you dap.
However for the sake of science and the wondering few i did take it out for a commute to and from work without hassle in a front jeans pocket. 
The DX220 is more portable and lighter of course.







iBasso DX220Max manual



I recommend purchasing from official recognized authorized dealers.  A list is available on the iBasso website. http://www.ibasso.com/




1 comment :

  1. Wow! Can't wait for sound impressions. I placed my pre-order from Bloom Audio and I can't wait for it to arrive here in Cali.

    ReplyDelete