iBasso DC05 Review
New chipset – even better sound
Pros: + Excellent sound
+ Crystal clear, silent and resolving
+ Very dynamic and open sounding
+ No mobile interference
+ Great build quality
+ UAC application for precise volume adjustment
+ Budget friendly
Cons: – Nothing at this price
The DC05 was kindly provided free of charge to be featured in a series of reviews.
The price is €58.33 ex.TAX and you can buy from this not affiliate link – iBasso.
It was less than a year ago when I reviewed the brand new (then) iBasso DC03 and DC04.
Two small sized USB DAC/amps that I liked a lot as you can find out here.
Unfortunately they were short lived due to the chip shortage that is plaguing the industry for almost two years now.
The popular Cirrus Logic CS43131 is now out of stock because the company couldn’t meet with the increased demand so designers like iBasso who haven’t stocked enough supply had to turn to another manufacturer.
The US based ESS seems to be the only manufacturer who can meet the increased demand but I don’t know for how long.
Anyway the obsolete CS43131 was substituted with the ES9219C and the DC05 was born.
The DC05 features a parallel dual DAC chipset configuration with two high-performance ES9219C to achieve better SNR and THD.
The ES9219C is a third-gen chip from Sabre Technologies that handles both decoding and amplification duties.
This premium DAC is supported by Quad DAC+ and HyperStream III audio architectures and time domain clock jitter elimination delivering class-leading performance.
It supports full MQA decoding and full support for 32-Bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 decoding.
The iBasso DC05 houses a 3.5mm single-ended output port that delivers up to 140mW/16Ω and 93mW/32Ω of output power, so it is slightly more powerful than its predecessor.
Power consumption is minimal so it will not consume the battery of the host device.
Appearance and build quality
The form factor is exactly the same and nothing has changed.
It is a full aluminium body with an excellent build quality.
It is small and lightweight measuring 38x15x9mm (105mm with the cable) and weighing 9gr so it can easily be carried into your pocket.
The USB type C plug is connected to the main body with a short braided cable of good quality that features strain reliefs for further protection.
It is available in two colors, black and green.
The iBasso DC05 is plug ‘n play with Android and iOS while for windows the user must install a driver to enable full DSD support.
It comes with a USB type C to type A adapter but in order to use it with iOS the user must buy a separate adapter because for now a lighting version is not available.
During testing with my mobile phone I haven’t experienced any interference.
iBasso has developed a custom volume control application that uses the latest UAC2.0 USB protocol to enable 64-step volume control by a connected source device.
This allows the users to use both sensitive as well as demanding earphones/headphones with the DC05 with a good range of adjustment.
The application can be downloaded from the iBasso website and it is available for Android only.
Upon hooking the iBasso DC05 to the host device, a window pops-up asking for a permission to access the UAC application.
I have tested the iBasso DC05 with their own ITX01, FiiO FD3, DUNU Falcon Pro and with the Sennheiser HD660S that did an excellent job in driving them with ease and headroom.
The latest firmware 1.8.2 was installed prior to listening evaluation.
It is truly amazing the amount of performance that is packed inside these new DAC chips, especially when they are well implemented by a competent designer like iBasso.
The DC05 is truly excellent sounding and in blind tests, someone would have a hard time to tell that this kind of audio performance is coming from a tiny USB DAC dongle that is hanging from a phone.
The sound is crystal clear, crisp and tonally neutral yet pleasant and enjoyable with all kinds of music.
The low end is deep, tight, fast and controlled with great contrast and nice layering.
The dynamic range is excellent for such a dongle and the DC05 is doing a great job in presenting large scale works in a grand scale manner.
Mids sound open, spacious, with fine articulation and fluid expression in the vocal range, timbre is mostly natural without severe digital artifacts while instruments sound well textured.
Treble is extended, sounding lively and agile with excessive energy but without any disturbing sharpness.
It is airy and clean with good levels of resolution and fine detail and scales quite well with better earphones that are highly resolving.
The whole presentation is wide open with great positioning accuracy and the DC05 will not hold back a spacious and open sounding iem like the FiiO FD5 or a good open back headphone.
Compared to the DC03
I don’t have the DC03 ATM to do a direct comparison but from memory I would dare to say that the two dongles are close enough.
It is a somewhat different presentation, the DC03 is slightly more polite and laid back where the DC05 is more upfront, lively, detailed and a touch more clean with better overall layering and control throughout the whole range.
I remember the DC03 to be quite powerful and could certainly drive the HD660S but I have the impression that the DC05 is slightly more effortless with greater headroom and dynamic range.
My opinion is that current owners of the DC03 should not get the DC05 and better save for something higher tier in order to do a meaningful upgrade.
Maybe for the upcoming balanced edition?
At the end
I have greatly enjoyed my time with the DC05 and the truth is that from one point onwards the evaluation duties took a second place as I found myself sitting back, listening to my favorite tunes.
The new iBasso DC05 is a truly excellent sounding USB DAC with a very friendly price.
There is a lot of competition in the market and it would be difficult to call it the best of the bunch but it certainly belongs among the leaders.
In fact it is so good that it is touching the big boys like the THX Onyx and Violectric Chronos but with less than half of the asking price and this is a hell of an achievement.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021.