iBasso DX240 Review
iBasso DX240 Review
Size Does Matter
Pros: + Excellent technicalities
+ Balanced and transparent
+ Musical and engaging
+ Open and spacious
+ Phenomenal positioning accuracy
+ Ultra dynamic
+ Very powerful
+ Really portable
+ Great battery life
+ Vibrant screen
+ Snappy performance
+ Dual OS
+ Interchangeable amplifier modules backwards compatible with DX220
+ AMP8 MK2 leads to a different sound path
Cons: – Slightly more technical than musical (with stock amp)
– Leatherette case and amp faceplates are sold as an extra
– Stock amplifier module without 4.4mm socket
– No double tap to wake the screen
– You can’t use the previous amplifier modules without the new faceplates
The DX240 was kindly provided free of charge by iBasso.
This is my honest and subjective evaluation without any bias.
The selling price is €790.83 ex.TAX and you can buy it, using the following (non-affiliate) link.
About the DX240
iBasso has a long history in producing some of the best sounding DAPs coupled with a very competitive pricing.
Their flagship DX300 (now out of production) is a truly remarkable digital player with a performance that highly exceeds the asking price, making it the least expensive high-end player of the market.
The full review is available here.
Compact yet fully featured
The latest instalment from the company is the DX240, a successor to the legendary DX220 but this time in a smaller form factor similar to the DX160.
Actually the DX240 is the most compact player in existence with such high end specs.
Measuring only 126×70.5×18.7mm and weighing a mere 240g, it is 100% pocket friendly and suitable for everyday carry.
The handling experience is a pure joy, navigation can be done one handed while it perfectly fits in your palm.
This is the definition of the portable digital player per se.
The DX240 might be compact but it packs some impressive features, starting with a single piece of the ES9038PRO to handle digital conversion duties, an 8-channel DAC with HyperStream II technology, and 32-bit native decoding, configured to work in a fully balanced mode.
As with their flagship DX300, iBasso has developed an FPGA Master chip to act as the audio system controller.
It receives the data from the CPU, synchronizes and generates all audio clocks at the same time using two NDK femtosecond oscillators, then sends it to the DAC in bit – perfect mode.
The player supports up to 32bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512 and full 16x MQA decoding.
The player is equipped with an ARM Qualcomm 660 CPU processor backed with 4Gb of fast memory and 64GB ROM.
Extra storage expansion is offered through a micro SD card slot.
The DX240 supports dual band WiFi and bidirectional Bluetooth with the high resolution codecs LDAC and aptX HD.
WiFi reception is strong and stable and so is the Bluetooth connection.
The player is powered by an 4400mA rechargeable battery with regulated power supplies for all critical digital and analog sections.
Charging is done quite fast (under 3 hours) since the player supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.
You have to use at least an 2A charger in order to enable fast charging while battery duration is truly excellent for such a high end player.
With moderately efficient earphones like the FiiO FD7, I was able to get about 10 to 11 hours of usage, streaming 24/96 files with the gain set at medium and the screen mostly shut off.
Swappable amp modules
iBasso keeps designing audio players with swappable amp modules, a great option that further expands the sound possibilities by allowing the user to experiment with the various amplifiers and tailor the sound to his/her liking.
The DX240 amplifier module system is not compatible with that of the DX300 but it is backwards compatible with the modules that were designed for the DX220/DX200.
If you already own such a module then the only thing you need to do is to unscrew the stock and swap them but you must use the new faceplates in order to get the right fit.
The stock module is called AMP1 MK3 and it is a brand new design based on the previous AMP1 MK2.
Notable differences include upgraded capacitors and an op-amp to buffer the output.
The voltage is rated at 6.2Vrms with a maximum output power of 878mW@32Ω/128mW@300Ω (from the balanced 2.5mm output) and 3.1Vrms/281mW@32Ω/32mW@300Ω (from the single ended 3.5mm output).
There is also a dedicated line out by the means of a 3.5mm socket.
Design and build quality
The DX240 is made from CNC aluminium with beautifully curved sides while it is covered by some kind of frozen glass that gives the player a classy and luxurious feeling.
It is available in two colors, black and green.
The 5″ full HD screen has an excellent body ratio and almost all of the front panel is covered by it.
The screen colors are vibrant with excellent visibility and the touch operation is very smooth.
The layout is very simple with a minimalist design that enhances the ease of use.
At the top of the right side there is the rotary volume control that also acts as the power ON/OFF button.
Under it there are three buttons to control the playback: play/pause, next song, previous song.
The sequence of the buttons can be reversed through the menu.
At the bottom of the player lies the stock amplifier module with the three audio outputs.
On the left side there is the micro SD card slot (without a protective cover) and at the top of the player you can find the USB type C input and the 3.5mm SPDIF output socket.
A simple and highly effective design.
The DX240 comes bundled with a silicone protective case, a coaxial to 3.5mm adapter and the little cable that is used as a load during the burning process.
Some retailers were selling the first batches of the player with an extra leather case of the same color and the faceplates, as a present.
Normally you have to buy these accessories as an extra.
The real leather case is worth buying but it has the minor drawback that it doesn’t have a lid to secure the player inside so it can accidentally slip outside, something that has happened a couple of times.
The DX240 is fast and responsive, not as fast as the DX300 but still very satisfying, you are not going to miss a lot especially if you don’t multitask.
I don’t use digital audio players for anything else than listening to music but I have done some web browsing and downloaded the firmware update files without a single issue.
There is no official play store but the player comes with APK pure pre-installed so you can download all your favorite applications.
The user can choose between three gain settings and the seven available low pass filters directly from the drop down menu without the need to dive deeper into the settings.
The DX240 can also be used as a USB DAC and as a high quality digital transport both through the USB and SPDIF outputs.
The DX240 runs dual operating systems, an open Android 9.0 OS that is customized for audio performance and the (in-house developed) Mango OS that shuts down all other running applications for a pure music experience.
The Mango OS is fast and responsive with a well designed UI but honestly I haven’t used it a lot because it will not allow the use of streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz.
The DX240 is very powerful, not only for the size but also in a strictly objective criteria.
From the balanced output, it can run most of the headphones minus some low sensitivity models.
I have tested the player with various headphones such as the Focal Clear Mg, Sennheiser HD660S/HD650, HiFiMan Sundara/Arya and Meze Lyric with great results.
Of course I am not talking about simply getting loud but rather about the excellent driver control, the extra headroom and the very satisfying dynamic range.
On the other hand it is dead silent as not to induce hiss to sensitive in – ear earphones.
A truly remarkable performance inversely proportional to the compact size of the DX240.
iBasso suggested that I should burn the DX240 for at least 150 hours, using the included cable, and thus I did before the listening sessions.
I didn’t monitor the progress, just followed the rules.
In addition to the above mentioned headphones I have also used the FiiO FD7, FH9, FA7S and the Meze Rai Penta.
The DX240 general sound characteristics are that of ultimate transparency, dead flat frequency response with top notch technicalities yet not deprived of musicality and involvement.
The overall sound quality is excellent and the player is the perfect mix between two personalities, the technocrat and the artist although slightly leaning towards the former.
Bold, expanded and dynamic, it stays always faithful to the original material without imposing a personality of it’s own.
It makes sure that the music is being reproduced with the utmost precision while at the same time it has a great factor of musicality and emotional involvement.
The DX240 is agile, snappy, full of energy and nerve without becoming nervous, it has excellent timing properties and inherent sense of rhythm.
Deeply detailed and resolving, it never crosses the lines to become analytical and clinical but it manages to present the finest particles that dwell into the music as an integrated part of the whole experience.
The bass is lightning fast, full sounding and extended, not so visceral but super dynamic, tight and precise with exemplary layering and excellent control.
Mid range has superb linearity with great spaciousness, a rich harmonic palette and a natural timbre that imbues the sound with lifelike characteristics.
Treble is infinitely extended, crisp, fine, sharp and luminous yet not bright and by no means harsh.
Texture is airy and natural, the DAC implementation is very good with the least possible digital imprint.
There is some loss in body weight as higher register instruments start to become a touch thinner and with lesser intensity to their lower counterparts.
The clarity of the sound is just amazing and the soundstage is extremely wide and spacious.
Instrument separation and positioning are phenomenal and while the DX240 is not the last word in holography it still is very communicative of the ambience.
Listening to Beethoven’s 9th symphony is a grand scale and highly intoxicating experience.
Compared to the iBasso DX300 (AMP11 MKI)
(Sound and size only comparison)
The DX300 is obviously larger and heavier and while it can be used on the go, the DX240 is just unbeatable when it comes to portability, there is simply no comparison and it reigns supreme.
Sound-wise both players share the same linearity and dead flat frequency response.
Power-wise the DX300 is a little more powerful, you can notice the extra headroom and better control.
Then they deviate to offer the listener two different and easily distinguishable sound profiles.
Summarizing it would be like comparing a top notch R2R DAC or vinyl set-up to an equally top D/S DAC.
The main difference lies in the timbre, the DX300 is more organic, natural and analog-like sounding.
More relaxed, less nervous, not as bold, it is lush and suave while it has the listener positioned closer to the stage.
Texture is a little finer and fuller, sound has more intensity and body weight, not only to the bass but to the whole frequency range.
It might be a touch less dynamic on the lower end but it counterweights with finer textural qualities and deeper layering.
Voices and instruments sound closer to reality, the presentation is more natural and harmoniously diverse with a surplus of musicality.
The DX300 is more visceral than the leaner DX240, with deeper soundstage and better holography.
Another thing of note is that the DX300 is even more silent than the DX240 with a blacker background.
Two are the main parameters that should be considered in order to decide between the two players.
The first, and most obvious, is the size, the DX240 is the clear winner without any drawbacks regarding the sound quality.
If size is not an issue then the user should choose according to the sound presentation and headphone matching.
The youthful and agile DX240 against the maturer and sanguine DX300, different strokes for different folks.
Compared to the FiiO M11 Plus LTD
(Sound and size only comparison)
This is a tough one.
Size-wise, both are close enough for this parameter not to count as the main deciding factor between the two.
Still if you crave for the most compact and lightweight unit then the DX240 is the way to go.
The DX240 is also more powerful and better suited for larger headphones and difficult loads but then the M11 Plus LTD is slightly more silent, with a touch blacker background.
There is also the benefit of the DX240 with the interchangeable amplifier modules which offer a greater tuning potential.
Sound-wise there is a different approach but not as pronounced as with the DX300.
The DX240 is bolder, more dynamic, a little faster, more agile, tight and controlled.
It offers greater clarity with enhanced detail retrieval, a more open soundstage with better positioning accuracy.
On the other hand the M11 Plus LTD has just a little better holography, it is more relaxed, articulation is somewhat finer and texture is smoother.
The sound is lush, the presentation is a notch more visceral and the overall timbre is slightly more organic and sweet but of course still far away from the corresponding properties of the DX300.
As said in the beginning this is a tough decision and you are going to have a hard time in order to decide.
Carefully consider your needs regarding the size and then your sound preferences and headphones before you choose.
One thing is for sure, both players are excellent with a top price to performance ratio.
In the end
Now, this is pretty easy;
The DX240 is the best portable player in the market and when you read portable it means really portable and not as portable.
It might be lightweight and palm sized but it offers an unmatched sound quality, worthy of the high end status, without any noticeable compromises.
In the end size does matter after all.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2022