iBasso DX50 DAP – the tough love?

NOTE: I have added a new post describing how the iBasso is after some new firmware and also once the SD card got an RMA–>>

I have to admit that I did feel a bit insecure when ordering my iBasso DX50 some weeks ago. I was in batch 2, just made it, and had to wait for my player for two weeks before it came to me. If you don’t know what it is, the iBasso DX50 is a DAP, Digital Audio Player, that is supposed to be Audiophile quality. I can’t vouch for the last, I leave that for true audiophiles to determine. What I know, I why I got it is because it was supposedly a good player, a player that could handle high audio qualities like WAV and FLAC in 24 bit 192 kHz. If you are not that tech savvy and wonder what that is?, let’s say it is a file that is way bigger than that on a CD and have loads of more information in it. Like a Blu-Ray movie compared to a CD – and just the same, you need more things around you to fully appreciate everything there is to the high-resolution files compared to the standard files, CD or MP3.

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It is a bit generic, but my guess is that if you came here, you already know this and can probably describe it even better than what I did above. Regardless, my previous DAP was the iAudio (Cowon) D2. A player that to me sounded OK, but with a bit murkiness and darkness over it. Also, it didn’t really ever behave that crystal to me. I don’t think that since I abandoned my black Walkman deluxe cassette, I ever been truly satisfied with any DAP. But I do wanted something better than my Samsung Galaxy S2, which in standard sounds absolutely not great, with latest updates and players like WinAmp or PowerAmp sounds a bit better. I have a ADL Stride DAC(Digital Audio Converter)/AMP that I use with some pleasure. It really enables that little extra, but is still hampered by the S2’s lackluster performance. The D2 did something a bit better and with the ADL – it produced some great sounds – but it was a pretty awkward package to carry around. Still, the AMP made sure that I could use some better headphones and get a bit more warmth to the bass.

Still, I wanted a DAP that could drive my headphones that I usually want to carry when walking and listening to music, like the Sennheiser MOMENTUM, the Sennheiser HD 25-1 II, the V-Moda M80 or my plugs. Enter the Fiio X3 and the iBasso DX50. I first heard about them checking out the different players out there and NO, iTunes and Apple products don’t offer enough for me, so lets not go there. What you will find doing some search are the Colorfly, the HiFiMAN, some weird looking things that you won’t find in any normal store, and then you will find the iAudio, Fiio (but mostly the AMP’s for cell-/smart-phones) and Apple products. The iAudio, and Apple are more PMP (Portable Media Players) than DAP. They will handle a lot more files and movies etc. But if you are out for just music, you want a product that skips fancy animated UI’s, video support on a small screen and just goes for butt-simple things and burns the heavy artillery on the sound itself. iBasso and Fiio  X3 are the more cost efficient versions of this segment. They are presumably not the best, there are things out there that sounds truly great, but for that kind of money, I could get something far sexier. I was very tempted to go with the Astell & Kern AK100, but the player had some quirks still and cost more than twice as much as the iBasso DX50.

Now you may wonder why I don’t dig into the review of some sort eh? Well, partly it is because I’m still waiting for the damned thing to start behaving like a finished product. I have been only successful in paying music from the file browser, a CD at the time in FLAC, both loss-less from CD’s or bought 24 bits music from HD Tracks and places like that. When this player plays – it sounds great when you pair it with a decent pair of headphones. To me the Sennheiser Momentum is great for music, the HD 25-1 II great for metal, and the V-Moda M80 is great for all around. But….

Tough love indeed
I want to love it, I want to be totally satisfied, and while it plays – I am, but then I go and change album and suddenly it starts to scan the media and won’t stop that until I’m home again and it has auto shut down. It never ever really did that full library scan successfully so when checking the album entry, I got a few of the albums. Checking via the folder view – I find everything, but playing an album not scanned can really bug the shit out of it. So, plenty of force shutting down. This is now Firmware 1.16 – the second update for me, and I hope things progress, but so far the UI is a mess and the functionality is simply crap. The read from the SD card isn’t great.

…but it is love in the air
However, again, the player supports USB OTG (USB  On-The-GO)–>>, which means that you can plug via an USB OTG cable a USB stick, hard-drive (as long as it is powered of its own) to the player and play. The USB OTG with a flash disc worked like a wonder. I also used the enclosed coaxial cable and plugged it into me LeadAudio LA120 with great success. So the player itself has some really nice things, but needs to get its act together. With a sound like that, I hope the player will get good with UI and functions, because at this price point it is a bargain should it worked like it should. The quality out of it is definitely worth it. If you do get it, or want a lot more feedback and input, head over to www.headfi.org and read in the forums for some helpful tips.

On the go
So how does it feel? When I’m out walking? Well, I for one love the large buttons on the front, makes skipping a song or PLAY/PAUSE a smooth thing indeed. It is a bit weird to have the headphone jack on the underside of the player. Not sure what they were thinking there. I would have preferred to have it on top and coaxial on the outside instead, but this works, but feels just weird. The volume is easily adjusted, and the lock/unlock is easy to find so you can maneuver inside an album quite easily from inside your pocket. However, I made the volume bug appeared where the player simply started to auto lower the volume until it got muted and I had to force restart the player. Seems like hitting the volume button and lock button isn’t a good thing to do.

Links
iBasso
Fiio
HiFIMAN
Astell & KernCowon

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About sketchywolf

sketchywolf(aka Foolwolf) is a blog where I will try different hobbies and document them on. Certain ramblings and may even start some story writing etc. I will also try to have a collection of my reviews of all things that I try and wants to share...
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8 Responses to iBasso DX50 DAP – the tough love?

  1. Pingback: iBasso DX50 – when love hits | sketchywolf

  2. FYI, it’s 24-bit 196KHz, not 196MHz

      • sketchywolf says:

        DOH!
        Thanks – I have corrected it now. I really should start to proof-read better :S

      • haha no problem. I guess you might also want to correct this part as well

        “he iAudio, Apple and Fiio are more PMP (Portable Media Players) than DAP. They will handle a lot more files and movies etc. But if you are out for just music, you want a product that skips fancy animated UI’s, video support on a small screen and just goes for butt-simple things and burns the heavy artillery on the sound itself.”

        FiiO doesn’t make anything that plays videos. They only make amps and now the X3 which is strictly a DAP.

      • sketchywolf says:

        Hi, again, *takes a bow* thanks for pointing it out. I edited it and removed the Fiio from the PMP, and added an explanation on brackets. I simply wrote that too quickly and forgot to make the separation between the players. Sloppy… 😉

  3. ucdogan says:

    Hi and thanks for this review. I just bought my sennheiser momentum headphones and looking for a dap to build a combo from which I can taste the quality of the music and all that stuff like layering… generally I am jazz/blues an pop listener.
    As a result, do you recommend dx50 for momentum headsets.
    Thx.

    • sketchywolf says:

      Hi there and glad you liked the review 🙂 Also, I’m glad to see that more people find the Sennheiser Momentum headphones, great pair of headphones IMHO. For your question. I would say that the IiBasso DX50 will give you great bang for the buck and will most likely be able to deliver all of which you want. The only if’s here are two things: do you need a DAP that can do more than just music or not? – If you do, the iBasso or well, any other isn’t the right combo for you.
      If it is the music and the finest quality of it – it is up to your wallet. If I had had more money to spent, I would most likely have gone with the Astell & Kern AK 120. It does have some problems and being a bit tricky to get along with but when you do, it should be the best player out there. Also, it can handle 2 x 64 GB of extra storage. Something to consider if you have large music collection or using 24 bit files that can be a bit larger in files size. The AK 120 is more or less considered to be top of the line today I would guess. Unless you need something with more juice to drive bigger headphones, then you have the Colorfly C4 and the iBasso DX100. For the Momentum the AK’s or the iBasso will work great though!

      Still, the iBasso will most likely give your listening a boost regardless and make you happy. I love my machine now that I have latest Firmware and a properly working MicroSD card. The momentum will work with any of the players though. They aren’t tough to drive and f you are price considerate – the iBasso will not disappoint! I’m mostly listening to rock, metal and the like – but I also love to listen to Heather Nova, Nick Cave, Norah Jones and Neko Case among others whose music tends to be more melodic and heavier on the singing parts and I have not found the iBasso lacking.

      Also, I found the people over at iBasso very helpful with answering questions about the player and also shipping etc. Gave me good confidence in iBasso.

      Wow, look at me babbling. If I did nothing but confuse you – I will give you a short reply as well 😉 Yes – the iBasso DX50 will work great for you! I’m sure of it! 😀

      Cheers!

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