iBasso DC06 Review
Transparency meets musicality
Pros: + Excellent technicalities and transparency
+ Tonally convincing and realistic
+ Musical and engaging with low digital glare
+ Crystal clear and silent without EMI interference
+ Powerful and impactful
+ Excellent positioning accuracy and detail retrieval
+ Power efficient
+ Great build quality and appearance
+ Good quality detachable cable
+ Not expensive
Cons: – No hardware buttons (if you care)
– No accompanying application for further adjustment
– Texture is more lean than visceral
– Some users might find it analytical and sharp
The review sample was kindly provided free of charge in exchange for my honest review.
I haven’t received monetary or any other kind of compensation and I don’t use affiliate links.
The DC06 costs $119 and you can buy it from here.
The DC06 is a brand new USB DAC dongle from iBasso which comes as a successor to the now discontinued DC04.
Together with the DC05, they are the two USB DAC dongles currently produced by iBasso.
The DC06 features dual ESS ES9219C DAC chips, the same used in the DC05 but this time instead of a parallel configuration, they are utilized in a fully balanced architecture.
The DC06 is slightly bulkier than the DC05 not only for the 4.4mm balanced headphone output but also for the much more sophisticated and advanced circuit.
The DC06 utilizes synchronous DC-DC converter, low noise charge pump and LDO, with audiophile filter capacitors, to build an independent power supply for the amp section which is embedded to the DAC chip.
This allows the amp section to operate at its full potential, significantly raising power output at 320mW/32Ω from the balanced output.
The DC06 is also equipped with an NDK femtosecond oscillator that reduces phase noise and provides a more accurate clock for the DAC.
A separate USB 2.0 receiver is used so the DC06 is compatible with most operating systems without the need to install drivers.
The DC06 decoding capability is up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, native DSD256 and 16x MQA.
Design and build quality
The DC06 features both single ended 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm pentaconn headphone outputs that are located at one side of the chassis together with a tiny LED that indicates the current working status.
Red is for standby, blue is DSD, green is PCM and magenta for MQA decoding.
The other side houses the USB type-C port which accepts the supplied USB type C-C cable which is of high quality with aluminum plugs and strain reliefs.
A handy USB type C to A adapter is also included and a lighting cable is available as an extra purchase.
The chassis has a rectangular shape with curved sides and is made from solid aluminium.
Hardware control buttons are not available.
The unit is rather compact (32x50mm) and not bulkier than similar USB DAC dongles like the FiiO KA3 or the Shanling UA3.
iBasso volume control application
Windows 10 and Android 5.0 and above support the UAC2.0 protocol by default.
However, for compatibility reasons, Android Smartphone manufacturers still use SRC on audio output.
When DCO6 is connected, the maximum volume is achieved.
By default, the software algorithm of the device is used to reduce the volume.
The software algorithm can reduce the volume but cannot reduce the noise floor.
Therefore, iBasso developed a UAC2.0 volume controller App to achieve 64-step hardware volume control, effectively reducing the noise floor while achieving superior audio performance.
Upon plugging the DC06 to your Android device, the UAC application will ask for permission to grant access and then you are ready to use the precise hardware volume control.
The DC06 was left playing music for about 50 hours before critical evaluation.
Various IEMs have been used, including my trusty FiiO FA7S, the iBasso IT01X and Drop Etymotic ERX.
The DC06 is really powerful from the balanced output and it had absolutely no problem driving the Sennheiser HD660S with plenty of headroom while it was an excellent sonic match with it.
The single ended output is equally good but the balanced one offers more grip and improved technicalities so it should be preferably used whenever possible.
Another important thing of note is that the DC06 has a very low noise floor and it is well shielded so it doesn’t pick up mobile interference.
The actual sonic performance is to be rated as excellent with a linear and well balanced sound signature supported by top technicalities.
The DC06 is transparent, broadly extended, crystal clear and detailed, as should be expected from a modern dual ESS DAC, while it sounds quite musical and engaging without being artificial or boring.
Actually the timbre is on the natural side with minimum digital glare that doesn’t add the usual metallic and bright hue.
The DC06 feels at home with all kinds of music while it offers plenty of harmonic saturation and colorful overtones to sound convincing and realistic with classical music.
The Sennheiser HD660S proved to be an excellent sonic match rewarding the senses with some great moments of musical pleasure.
Like while listening to the following recording of Bach’s violin concertos where the soloist was accurately centered and slightly stepped forward with the violin sounding tonally correct and saturated.
The accompanying orchestra was accurately positioned in the horizontal axis, but not that deep, while all instruments sounded clear and articulated.
The bass gets deep and well extended while the DC06 sounds physically impactful and dynamic.
Texture is not that visceral, it is on the leaner side but technicalities are great, the bass is fast, tight and well controlled with excellent definition and layering.
The mid range is clearly present, precisely defined and sounds finely articulated, as for the treble is vivid, sparkling and very resolving, touching sharpness territory but in no way edgy or harsh.
Detail retrieval is on surprisingly high level for the category, you could even call it analytical, as for the soundstage, it is widely extended and pinpoint accurate but maybe not that layered in the depth.
Nonetheless, it can easily fill your headphones with music adding some great scale of presentation with a grand imprint.
Compared to the less expensive DC05, the DC06 is a step forward into driving authority and grip while it sounds more impactful and dynamic with greater transparency, better detail retrieval and enhanced clarity.
Timbre is also a little more natural, less sharp and texture somewhat fuller but you should keep in mind that all the extra goodness is coming from the balanced output mostly, so if you don’t have balanced earphones you can easily stick with the DC05 and be well satisfied with less money.
The FiiO KA3 is fitted with the higher tier ES9038Q2M DAC chip and separate RT6863D*2 amplifiers.
On the non audio related stuff, the main advantage of the KA3 is the accompanying application which offers gain selection and seven low pass filters to choose from.
Surprisingly, despite the separate amplifier modules of the KA3, the DC06 is more powerful but the KA3 manages to sound slightly more dynamic and impactful.
Texture is also more visceral on the KA3, the sound is fuller and a touch warmer with more convincing timbre and harmonic wealth.
The DC06 though, is more transparent, crystal clear and resolving with deeper detail retrieval and just a touch better positioning accuracy although the KA3 takes the lead into depth layering and overall holography.
The DC06 is more power efficient but honestly, in the end, both are just fine sounding and you will be hard pressed to choose one.
I guess it comes down to the house sound signature and whether you prefer the FiiO or the iBasso one.
In the end
Nothing much left to add here, the iBasso DC06 is a powerful USB DAC dongle with a highly transparent and technical performance, yet it sounds musical and engaging while build quality is top notch.
iBasso fans, and not only, look no further, this is the USB DAC dongle to have, especially if you own more demanding earphones.
Copyright – Petros Laskis 2022.