iBasso DX300 review: a DAP that resembles a smartphone

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The iBasso DX300 is a digital audio player equipped with four 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and MQA compatible DACs and is the brand’s flagship model. Its entirely balanced amplification section provides 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced jack headphone outputs and a 3.5mm unbalanced jack output. Like many of the brand’s other models, the iBasso DX300 has the particularity of integrating two operating systems: Android 9.0 and Mango OS. It is therefore possible to run Android to take advantage of WiFi and access streaming apps, or Mango OS for optimized playback of music stored in the internal memory of the player or on its microSD card.

The iBasso DX300 DAP combines audiophile components with a design influenced by the latest smartphones.

The iBasso DX300 differs from any other HD player with its modern design directly inspired by the latest smartphone models. It features a large, borderless touchscreen with rounded corners, just like an iPhone. Its internal components are also worthy of the best Silicon Valley productions, with an 8-core processor and 6GB of RAM that offer unprecedented  responsiveness and smoothness 

The iBasso DX300 player is pleasant to use thanks to its large touchscreen and ultra-powerful processor.

iBasso DX300: the brand 

Founded in 2006, iBasso Audio is very popular among audiophiles on the go who have appreciated the quality of its digital audio players for over fifteen years. The brand is one of the first to have ventured into the HD audio market. It acquired a great deal of expertise and has maintained control over the entirety of the production chain to design devices that meet the requirements of traveling users. In 2011, iBasso managed to bypass the Android ALSA driver and developed the world’s first DAP that ran on Android and was 24-bit/192kHz compatible: the iBasso DX100. This model was a huge success and ushered in the era of Android music players. 

Up until then, iBasso had been the leader in the DAP market. However, the success of the iBasso DX100 inspired many competing brands and iBasso had to redouble its efforts to maintain its top position. The manufacturer therefore decided to expand its range of music players by offering increasingly powerful models adapted to the needs of all users, neophytes and audiophiles alike. As a result, many models were created that are true references in their price range, such as the iBasso DX120, iBasso DX150, iBasso DX160 and iBasso DX220. Just recently, iBasso decided to make an even bigger impact with the iBasso DX300, its most powerful model to date. 

The iBasso DX300 is the brand’s most powerful player thanks to its four DACs and impressive amplification.

To accompany its audiophile players, iBasso has also started designing in-ear monitors, including the iBasso IT01s and iBasso IT00s, two models that are a perfect gateway into the world of high fidelity at a reasonable cost. In addition, those who prefer headphones have not been left out as the brand has released the iBasso SR2, an open-back model with an exceptional frequency response ranging from 3Hz to 40kHz. 

The iBasso IT01s IEMs are the perfect match for the brand’s HD players. 

iBasso DX300: packaging & accessories 

The iBasso DX300 comes in a large box with a silver sleeve that has the DX300 name printed on it. The box containing the player opens very elegantly with a top part that pivots upwards, revealing the iBasso DX300 that is wedged into a rigid cutout covered with soft synthetic fabric. Underneath this insert are the numerous accessories: a rigid leatherette case, a USB A to USB C cable, a 2.5mm mini-jack to USB A adapter, a 3.5mm mini-jack to coaxial adapter, as well as three tempered glass protections (two for the screen and one for the back of the player). 

The iBasso DX300 doesn’t come with a user manual and there doesn’t seem to be one available to download on the manufacturer’s website yet. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if this isn’t your first DAP or if you are familiar with the Android operating system. For new users, however, the lack of instructions could be challenging. 

iBasso DX300: presentation 

Design & ergonomics 

The iBasso DX300’s design is quite different from that of other digital audio players as it is heavily inspired by the latest smartphone models and iPhones in particular. It features a large 6.5” touchscreen with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels. There is virtually no space between the screen and the edge of the DAP, with only a thin space on the bottom and a less than a millimeter on the sides.

Le baladeur iBasso adoptThe iBasso DAP has a large touchscreen with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels.

An advantage of the iBasso DX300 when compared to the iPhone is the absence of a front camera at the top, which allows you to enjoy a full width screen. In its place is a thin LED strip that changes color depending on the resolution of the file being played: white for 44.1 and 48kHz, green for 88.2 and 96kHz, orange for 192kHz and red for DSD streams. 

At the top of the iBasso DX300’s screen is a thin LED strip that changes color depending on the resolution of the file being played.

The iBasso DX300 DAP is relatively large and is similar in size to the biggest smartphones on the market, notably the iPhone 12 Pro Max. In comparison, the DX300 is 162mm high and 77mm wide, and the iPhone is 160.8mm high and 78mm wide. The similarities end there, however, as the iBasso DX300 is significantly thicker: 17mm compared to 7.4mm for the iPhone. Consequently, the DX300 will not fit in your pocket as easily. 

The iBasso DX300 DAP has a very similar design to a smartphone, with almost no space between the large touchscreen and the edge of the device.

The iBasso DX300 is assembled with great precision and its build quality is just as good as that of the most luxurious smartphones. The sides of the player are machined from a single piece of aluminum, while the polymer rear panel has flared edges to optimize grip. Despite its large size, the feel is nice and the different functions are easily accessible. Like the other models of iBasso players, the physical controls are all grouped on the right side. However, the Asian manufacturer has revisited the design of the latter. The two controls to change tracks (next track and previous track), as well as the control to start and pause playback, no longer have a circular format, but a longer shape that is much more intuitive and comfortable to use. 

Like the other models of iBasso players, the physical controls are all grouped on the right side.

Above the playback controls is a large gold wheel that is a power button when pressed and a volume controller when turned. The volume can be precisely adjusted with a range from 0 to 100. However, the placement of this control is not very ergonomic and sticks out rather awkwardly. Also, the fact that this rather sensitive volume control protrudes from the player means the volume is sometimes altered when the iBasso DX300 is slid into or removed from a fairly tight pocket. Finally, the quality doesn’t seem to be at the same level as the rest of the player, and it’s unlikely to withstand being dropped. Unfortunately, using the dedicated leatherette case does not provide additional protection for the control of this high-end player. 

The iBasso DX300’s control wheel provides precise volume adjustment, but can accidentally change the level when the device is slipped into a pocket.

Four CS43198 DACs

The heart of this iBasso audiophile music player is built on a programmable logic circuit (FPGA-Master) specifically designed for this model. Its role is to recover audio data to optimize the stability and precision of the signal. It is associated with two clocks (22.5792 Mhz and 24.576 Mhz), as well as an oscillator to drastically reduce jitter and provide a smoother and more accurate audio signal. To ensure accurate conversion, the iBasso DX300’s symmetrical structure does not use a single DAC or a Dual-DAC configuration, but four Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs. Each left and right channel benefits from two independent DACs, for an 8 channel system. The use of these DACs arranged in double parallel configuration for each channel allows for a fully balanced output. The result is a more precise channel separation, an optimized signal-to-noise ratio and an effective reduction of distortion, although the precise value of the latter is not mentioned by iBasso. However, the signal-to-noise ratio is 125dB on the balanced output and 123dB on the unbalanced output. 

The iBasso DX300 DAP features four 32-bit/384kHz, DSD and MQA compatible DACs.

Thanks to its Quad-DAC structure, the iBasso DX300 HD player supports most audio formats (APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ACC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, DST, CUE, ISO, M3U, M3U8, etc.). It can convert these files to 32-bit/384kHz for PCM streams. Native decoding of DSD files is also possible up to DSD 11.2 MHz (DSD256). In addition, the iBasso DX300 can play MQA files, making it compatible with Hi-Res playback on Tidal. 

Balanced and unbalanced outputs 

Like the iBasso DX150 and the other high-end models from the brand, the DX300’s amplification circuit can be removed. The only two visible screws on the chassis of the player allow you to easily remove the amplification module. It is then possible to replace it with another module featuring a different connector or a sound signature better suited to your equipment. However, at the time of writing, no modules for the DX300 are available yet, but iBasso should announce their release in the coming months. 

It is possible to remove the iBasso DX300’s amplification module to modify the sound signature or the connectors.

Thankfully, the factory-mounted AMP11 module is powerful and versatile enough to  suit a wide range of users and headphones. It features a balanced design, with a high-performance module and discrete components for each channel. It includes two balanced 2.5mm jack and 4.4mm jack outputs, as well as an unbalanced 3.5mm jack output. The output power of this module is 1240mW into 32 ohms for the balanced outputs and 350mW into 32 ohms for the unbalanced output. The iBasso is therefore able to ensure an optimal power supply for the majority of headphones and earphones, even models with high impedance. Moreover, it is possible to switch the unbalanced and balanced outputs to a line level to use the iBasso DX300 as a source with a hi-fi amplifier. Lastly, a coaxial digital audio output independent of the amplification module is also present on the top of the player to associate a DAC or an external DAC-amp (mini-jack 3.5mm format). 

The iBasso DX300 DAP’s original amplification module provides a 3.5mm mini-jack unbalanced output and two balanced outputs: one 4.4mm jack and one 2.5mm mini-jack.

Double operating system

The iBasso DX300 DAP has the particularity of incorporating two operating systems: Android 9.0 and Mango OS. You can select the OS of your choice in the iBasso DX300 settings. Changing from one system to the other is done in a few seconds, which allows you to quickly navigate between the two OS according to your needs.

It is possible to change the operating system of the iBasso DX300 player according to your use or preferences.

Android 

The iBasso DX300 definitely offers much greater functionality when running on Android 9.0. This version provides unrestricted music playback by distributing audio streams directly to converters, without any digital intervention from the operating system. The interface remains very similar to the mobile version and users of Android smartphones or tablets won’t be lost. The home page includes all the applications, such as Google Chrome, the clock, access to settings, the gallery and the calculator. 

The iBasso DX300’s Android OS is very similar to that of a smartphone, with intuitive navigation through the various pages of apps.

You can also find all your downloaded apps. The integration of this Android system and the dual MIMO antenna allows the iBasso DX300 HD DAC to access many online streaming services. It does not feature the Google Play Store, but there is the alternative APKPure store to download applications. It is already installed on the player and offers the apps for most online music services, including Deezer, Spotify, Tidal, Napster, Qobuz and Amazon Music. 

It is possible to download many Android applications, including those of the main online music services from the alternative APKPure store.

Mango OS 

Mango OS, the second operating system, is a proprietary OS developed exclusively by iBasso for music playback. Much more minimalist, it only allows you to play music stored in the device’s internal memory or on a microSD card. The playback interface of this system also acts as a home page. From this page, you can get information about the track being played, including the album cover, the title and the resolution. To the left of this interface, a drop-down menu provides access to your music sorted by title, album, artist, genre or even by playlist. At the opposite side represented by a cog is the settings menu, which offers more detailed parameters, including the gapless mode, the gain (low, medium or high), the playback mode (random, loop, order, cueing, by folder, etc.), the balance, and the ability to customize the listening experience thanks to the ten-band equalizer and the five digital filters that influence the cutoff slope (steep or soft). Note that these different parameters are also available from the Mango Player app on Android. 

Mango OS offers many settings to optimize the playback of music stored in the device’s internal memory or on a microSD card.

Screen and navigation

Although it is not an OLED model, the quality of the iBasso DX300 player’s screen is very good. Its 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution offers a Full HD 1080p display with a 21:9 ratio. It is well contrasted and displays great colors. It is even possible to use it to watch videos by downloading Netflix or YouTube from the APKPure app store. In addition to its large size, its main advantage is its brightness, which is much higher than many other players. Therefore, even if the screen is subject to reflections when used outdoors, the high brightness ensures that information remains easily readable. Apart from that, this screen is pleasant to use, although its external surface isn’t as smooth as that of a smartphone. When swiping the screen, we feel a stronger resistance, but this does not detract from its comfort of use. Finally, navigation is always smooth and the interface responsive thanks to the use of an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor and 6GB of RAM. Even when using demanding applications, the responsiveness is immediate. 

The iBasso DX300’s screen is bright, well contrasted and makes the player pleasant and intuitive to use.

Power supply 

With the iBasso DX300, the Asian manufacturer doubled each component and the power section of the player is no exception. The iBasso DX300 integrates not one, but two separate batteries to ensure a high-quality power supply for the different components. The 4000 mAh battery is dedicated to the power supply of the player’s digital section, while the 2000 mAh battery is in charge of the amplification section. In addition to an increased battery life of up to 15 hours, this dual power supply has the major advantage of reducing interference between the digital and analog circuits. This results in a more effective reduction of distortion and a clearer sound. 

These batteries are recharged using the USB-C 3.1 port located on the top of the iBasso DX300 using the USB-A to USB-C cable supplied with the player. A complete recharge takes about 2h30. Practical, the USB-C port of the iBasso DX300 also lets you use the player as a USB DAC with a Windows or MAC computer. To enter this mode, it is first necessary to swipe the screen from left to right, then to select the “USB DAC” mode in the icons of the toolbar.

Thanks to its USB-C port, the iBasso DX300 can be used as a USB DAC with a Windows or Mac computer.

Expandable memory 

To store large, high-resolution files such as FLAC, WAV, WMA, AIFF up to 32-bit/384kHz, as well as DSD and MQA, the iBasso DX300 has 128GB of internal memory, of which 113GB is available to the user. To accommodate a whole music library, it is possible to extend this storage memory with a micro SD card. iBasso does not communicate the maximum capacity, but during this test, we were able to use a 1TB card without problem. 

Bluetooth 5.0 

In addition to WiFi, the iBasso DX300 audiophile player has a Bluetooth 5.0 transmitter. This transmitter makes it easier to listen to music with wireless headphones or IEMs, but also with a connected amp or a pair of Bluetooth speakers. This transmitter is associated with a high-performance antenna to improve the range and stability of the connection. The iBasso’s Bluetooth controller, on the other hand, is only compatible with the SBC codec, which does not allow for wireless Hi-Res listening. 

It is possible to activate Bluetooth in the iBasso DX300’s settings to stream music wirelessly to a connected amplifier or a pair of active speakers.

iBasso DX300: key specs 

Design

  • 4 x Cirrus Logic CS43198 DACs
  • Android 9.0 x Mango OS
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • 2340 x 1080 pixel bezel-less touchscreen
  • Equalizer
  • Expandable 128GB of internal memory
  • MicroSD reader
  • 6GB RAM
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 8-core processor

Audio

  • Bit Perfect compatible
  • Compatible with 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 audio files
  • Compatible audio formats: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ACC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, DST, CUE, ISO, M3U, M3U8

Balanced output measurements 

  • Frequency response: 10Hz to 40kHz
  • Max. output level: 7.1 Vrms
  • Output power: 1240mW into 32 ohms / 168mW into 300 ohms
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 125dB
  • Dynamic range: -125dB
  • THD+N: 109 dB (300Ω)
  • Impedance: 0.39 ohms

Unbalanced output measurements 

  • Frequency response: 10Hz to 40kHz
  • Max. output level: 3.5 Vrms
  • Output power: 350mW into 32 ohms / 32mW into 300 ohms
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 123 dB
  • THD+N: 107 dB (300Ω)
  • Impedance: 0.43 ohms

Balanced line output measurements 

  • Frequency response: 10Hz to 40kHz
  • Max. output level: 7.1 Vrms
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 125dB
  • THD+N: 111dB
  • Channel separation: -199dB

Unbalanced line output measurements 

  • Frequency response: 10Hz to 40kHz
  • Max. output level: 3.5 Vrms
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 123dB
  • THD+N: 111dB
  • Channel separation: -103dB

Connectors

  • 1 x 3.5mm mini-jack unbalanced coaxial output
  • 1 x 4.4mm jack balanced output
  • 1 x  2.5mm jack balanced output
  • 1 x USB-C port (DAC, file transfer and charging)

Power supply

  • Double battery
  • 4000 mAh 3.8V + 2000 mAh 3.8V
  • Max. battery life: 15 hours
  • Charging time: approx. 2h30

Bluetooth 

  • Version 5.0
  • Range: approx. 10 meters

Included accessories 

  • USB-C to USB-A cable
  • Coaxial cable
  • Protective case
  • Screen protector
  • User guide

General

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 162 x 77 x 17mm
  • Weight: 300g

iBasso DX300: listening conditions 

For our review, we paired the iBasso DX300 DAP with our reference headphones, the Sennheiser HD380 PRO, chosen for its excellent neutrality. It has an impedance of 54 ohms and a frequency response of 8Hz to 27,000Hz, which makes it ideal to take advantage of the harmonic richness offered by the iBasso DX300. We also tested the iBasso DX300 as a source with a NAD C375 BEE Hi-Fi amplifier by setting its output to line level. Finally, we took advantage of its 3.5mm mini-jack coaxial output and its adapter (mini-jack to coaxial) to connect it to a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers. 

We tested the iBasso DX300 DAP with Qobuz and Spotify, as well as DSD and Flac files stored in the player’s memory and played in USB DAC mode.

We listened to Hi-Res FLAC and DSD audio files of various resolutions stored in the player’s 128GB internal memory and on a micro SD card. We also installed the Qobuz app to enjoy the 24-bit/192kHz music available for streaming on the platform from our Sublime+ subscription. We also installed Spotify (MP3 at 320 Kbits), to test the musical capabilities of the player with lower resolution files. Finally, the USB DAC mode of the iBasso DX300 was tested on a MacBook Pro with the provided USB cable. 

iBasso DX300: listening impressions

Qobuz – Caruso – Luciano Pavarotti, CD quality 

The iBasso DX300 HD player offers an airy and spacious reproduction. On Luciano Pavarotti’s Caruso, the Italian tenor’s voice is expressed with a phenomenal intensity and provided a real impression of space. It was articulated with ease and undeniable directness. The contours of this unique voice were beautifully chiseled, where each intonation was surgically delineated. The phrasing of the piano that accompanies the piece was natural, contributing to the accurate acoustics during the recording. The whole sound was beautifully defined and we even forgot the date this track was recorded. 

With the iBasso DX300 DAP, the vocals were beautifully chiseled and each intonation was delineated with surgical precision.

Qobuz – Again – Archive, CD quality 

The open and spacious soundstage of the iBasso DX300 also benefits more experimental music, such as the track Again by Archive. During the introduction, the reproduction was beautifully transparent and the various arrangements unfolded in a serene, pleasant and natural atmosphere. The track then rose crescendo with intensity, with more and more powerful percussion instruments and clear attacks, without losing coherence and becoming confused.

Via Qobuz, the iBasso DX300 HD player provided a natural and transparent sound with clear attacks.

DSD file – Para Machuchar Meu Coracao – Stan Getz 

On the track Para Machuchar Meu Coracao by the duo Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, the different chords of the saxophone were rendered in an appealing acoustic atmosphere. The iBasso DX300 player was very neutral, not bringing any unwelcome exuberance to this track. Without being the warmest, the sound was soft, velvety and sumptuous. There was a beautiful alchemy, the player offering a great capacity of analysis: the instruments were smoothly contoured. The double bass that accompanies the piece enjoyed a pleasant reverberation in the lows and brought substance. The sound was rich, pleasant and generous. 

USB DAC – Aux armes et caetera – Serge Gainsbourg, 24-bit/192kHz 

The iBasso DX300 is at ease with any musical style, as illustrated by the song Aux armes et caetera by Serge Gainsbourg. We enjoyed a beautiful dynamic and well-paced sound. The percussion instruments were surprising, with great clarity and very precise separation. The strongest attacks were very present without being aggressive. This track has offered us more powerful bass with other systems, but they were undeniably controlled, tight and benefitted from a nice roundness. The depth and overall dynamics of the sound were slightly enhanced by setting the player’s gainto “Medium” or “High”. 

iBasso DX300: compared to… 

Astell&Kern KANN Alpha: sold for the same price, the Astell&Kern KANN Alpha adopts a double Sabre ES9068AS DAC compatible with 32-bit/384kHz, DSD 11.2 MHz and MQA streams. It benefits from a colossal amplification which is established at 12V RMS balanced (2.5mm jack and 4.4mm jack) and 6V RMS unbalanced (3.5mm jack), which is much higher than that of the iBasso DX300. Concerning sound, the Astell&Kern KANN Alpha also seems to be a little more powerful, with an even more dynamic, transparent and subtle reproduction. It delivers a full and delightful sound. The iBasso DX300 has much better ergonomics, thanks to its larger touchscreen and its more classic format. One of the Kann Alpha’s main weaknesses is its thick, brick-like chassis. While the iBasso DX300 can already be difficult to slip into small pockets, it is not even possible with the Kann Alpha. Finally, the iBasso Walkman also offers a more responsive, smooth and intuitive navigation. Although they both run on Android, the more powerful processor of the iBasso DX300 makes all the difference. 

The Astell&Kern KANN Alpha provides a more energetic, transparent and subtle reproduction, but is bulkier and not as responsive.

FiiO M15:  slightly more expensive (€1,399), the FiiO M15 is the brand’s most powerful player to date. It is equipped with a dual AK4499EQ DAC compatible with PCM 768kHz/32-bit and DSD512 streams. The FiiO M15can reach up to 490mW into 32 ohms via the unbalanced output and up to 800mW via the balanced outputs. This is a significant amount of power, but still lower than the 1240mW into 32 ohms delivered by the iBasso DX300, so the latter is a better choice to power demanding headphones. On the other hand, soundwise, the FiiO M15 packs more of a punch in the lower end of the spectrum, with slightly more pronounced bass. It is also a little more dynamic. However, the iBasso DX300 remains unchallenged in terms of design and ergonomics thanks to its large screen and its better responsiveness. 

The FiiO M15 packs more of a punch in the lower end of the spectrum, with slightly more pronounced bass than the iBasso DX300.

iBasso DX300: who is it for? 

The iBasso DX300 is aimed at music lovers who are looking for a high-performance digital audio player, but who do not want to part with the design and convenience of a smartphone. The experience and comfort offered by the large touchscreen is similar to the latest Apple smartphones, while navigation through the operating system is worthy of the best Android smartphones. If we disregard the greater thickness and the numerous headphone outputs, it really feels like we’re holding one of the latest high-end smartphones. The player also shares many features, with the ability to install games, VOD services, browse the Internet and social networks, or install the applications of your favorite online music services. However, unlike a smartphone, the user enjoys genuine audiophile components for high-quality decoding and amplification that cannot be found on a smartphone, even the most advanced models. 

The iBasso DX300 is aimed at music lovers who are looking for a high-performance digital audio player, but who do not want to part with the design and convenience of a smartphone.

iBasso DX300: conclusion 

With the iBasso DX300, the manufacturer offers the most powerful model of its catalog and the most elegant available on the market. It is undeniable that the manufacturer was heavily inspired by the best smartphones of the moment when designing the iBasso DX300. To our delight, this is felt both in its design and in the smoothness of its navigation. With the iBasso DX300, one enjoys a device that is attractive, responsive and efficient, a far cry from the competition’s less responsive and sometimes frustrating DAPs. We can only praise the advantages of this technical choice, especially since it is not at the expense of sound quality. This is a genuine HD player with four 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and MQA DACs. Its musicality is undeniable, with a spacious restitution, superbly chiseled voices and a beautiful analytical capacity to deliver each tone with finesse. In addition, the factory fitted amplifier module offers great versatility with its balanced and unbalanced outputs and can power most headphones and earphones with its high output power. The fact that this module is removable ensures that the player is durable, as it can be changed depending on your headphones or your needs.

What we liked

  • The modern and ergonomic design
  • The very large touchscreen
  • The smooth navigation
  • The natural reproduction
  • The energy
  • The protective case

We would have liked

  • A more discreet volume control
  • A little more power in the lows

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