iBasso DC01 Hi-Res DAC/AMP Dongle Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

iBasso DC01 Hi-Res DAC/AMP Dongle Review

 

Introduction:

iBasso is Chinese company that is specialized in the Portable Audio products such like Digital Audio Players (DAP), Portable Amplifiers, In-Ear Monitors, Headphones, etc..

The iBasso DC01 & DC02 are USB Type-C DAC/AMP Dongles and a new product line of the company.

Some Main features of the DC01 are listed bellow;

  • AK4493EQ 32-Bit Stereo DAC with Velvet Sound™ Technology
  • Supports Sampling Rates up to 32bit/384kHz
  • Supports Native DSD up to 256x
  • True Balanced amplifier with 2.5mm balanced ouput
  • Works as a USB-DAC for Android smartphones and tablets, Mac, Windows, and Linux computers
  • USB-C connector for better compatibility with Android smartphones and tablets
  • Dual ultra-low noise LDOs to ensure a high-performance audio
  • 8-wire braided audiophile cable

Official Product Page: http://www.ibasso.com/cp_xq_dy.php?id=8745

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank iBasso for providing me the DC01 as review sample. I am not affiliated with iBasso beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product!

 

Price:

The iBasso DC01 is available under the following purchase link;

Purchase Link: https://penonaudio.com/ibasso-dc01.html

 

Package and Accessories:

The DC01 came in a relative small white cardboard box that features the product illustration on the top and technical details on the back.

Included to the box are the following contents;

  • 1 x iBasso DC01 USB DAC/APM Dongle
  • 1 x USB to USB Type-C Adaptor
  • 1 x User Manual

 

 

Design and Build Quality:

The iBasso DC01 is USB DAC/AMP adaptor/dongle which is a combination of 3 main components, the USB Type-C connector, the low profile braided cable and the main body.

The main body is the heart of the DC01 and features all the important internals like DAC, PCB, etc.

The main body is made of metal in sliver color and has a 2.5mm (TTRS) output on the top and a blue LED light that lights up when the device is in operation.

On the top of the main body is the iBasso DC01 & 32bit/384kHz DSD256x branding in white color and the Hi-Res Audio sticker.

The backside of the housing is blank.

The USB Type-C connector has also the metal housing in silver color and features a transparent plastic strain relief.

The low profile cable of the iBasso DC01 has a braided design and is made of 8 Core Silver Plated Copper and Cooper wire material. It is fixed to the main body with a transparent plastic strain relief.

The overall build quality of the DC01 is top notch and doesn’t show any imperfections like gaps, burrs etc.

 

           

Some Technical Specifications:
  • DAC                                        : AKM (Asahi Kasei Microdevices) AK4493EQ
  • THD+N                                   : < 0.001%
  • Frequency Response              : 20 Hz – 40 KHz (+/- 0.dB)
  • Output Power                         : 113mW @ 32 ohm
  • Output Voltage                       : 1.9V (32 ohm load)
  • Digital Input Interface             : USB Type-C or Lighting
  • Output                                    : 2.5mm Balanced Out
  • Weight                                    : 11 grams
  • Length                                    : 120mm

 

 

 

Hardware/Software Features:

a) DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):

The iBasso DC01 features the desktop level AK4493EQ Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) of the company Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) which is a new generation Premium 32-bit 2ch DAC with VELVET SOUNDTM technology with low distortion characteristics and wide dynamic range.

Source: https://www.akm.com/global/en/products/audio/audio-dac/ak4493eq/

b) Supported Sampling Rates:

The iBasso DC01 support sampling rates from 16, 24, 32Bit, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384kHz up to Native DSD 256x.

 

c) Connectivity:

The iBasso DC01 uses a USB-C connector and utilizes the standard UAC2.0 USB receiver. It is compatible with most Android Smartphones and tablets on the market and can also be connected to MAC and Windows PC’s via the supplied USB Type-C to USB-A converter, which allows it to work as a USB Soundcard.

The iBasso DC01 uses a standard UAC 2.0 sound card chipset for plug-and-play on Mac and Win10 computers. For WinXP, Win7, and Win8 systems please download the driver from the link below;

http://www.ibasso.com/down.php

 

d) Amplifier & Driving Power:

The iBasso DC01 uses a true balanced circuit with dual ultra-low distortion LDOs to create a true balanced amplifier, which provides high output power for improved dynamics and resolution.

The DC01 has a driving power of 113mW @ 32ohm which is pretty high for a USB DAC/AMP adaptor/dongle.

 

e) iBasso UAC Application Software (Anti Hissing APP) :

Devices with Windows 10 and Android 5.0 or above support the UAC2.0 protocol by default. However, for compatibility reasons, Android Smartphone manufacturers still use SRC on audio output. When DC01 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 a better audio performance. For example the AM05 have has hissing issues without the UAC application while the IT04 was pretty silent.

The Application (APK file) can be downloaded under the link below;

http://www.ibasso.com/down.php

 

Equipments used for this review:
  • DAC’s             : iBasso DC01, MUsiland MU2
  • USB Source   : Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
  • IEM’s              : iBsso AM05, iBasso IT01s
  • Earbuds         : Penon BS1 Official, Simphonio Dragon2+
  • Headphones  : Audio-Technica ATH-M50

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
  • Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • No Doubt – Hella Gut (Spotify)
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Twerl – Lishu (Spotify)
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Photek – The Hidden Camera (Spotify)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kbps)

 

 

 

The Sound:

The iBasso DC01 has a slightly warmer than neutral tonality with a strong bass response, musical midrange and soft treble character. Especially the mid & subbass and musical instruments are the focal point of the DC01.

Please note that the iBasso DC01 was tested with the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (with UAC 2.0 Application) and that all my comments about the sound quality are in consideration of its price range. The burn-in period for the DC01 was for about 70 hours.

 

 

Bass:

The iBasso DC01 has an impressive subbass performance for a DAC/AMP adaptor at this price range. The subbass quantity is above average, while the extension is on a moderate level. The subbass depth is on a good level and the intensity is pretty noticeable. From electronic music to fast genres like metal music, the existing subbass is very satisfying and pleasant to listen to. The DC01 performs quite impressive in terms of subbass quantity and depth compared to other DAC/AMP cables I’ve tried before. The reason for this result could be the balanced output structure.

The iBasso DC01 has an impactful and pronounced midbass tuning with a soft and musical tonality. Instruments like cross drums are accented, while snare drums are bassy and fairly fast. Other Instruments such like bass guitars are warmish and thick/full bodied.

The bass of the iBasso DC01 is in general fast and pretty controlled, without show any unnecessary mixings and situations like muddiness. The performance from songs of Armin Van Buuren up to fast trash metal tracks like Megadeth’s Sweating Bullets is quite satisfying.

 

Midrange:

The iBasso DC01 has a musical, smooth and warmish midrange with good level of clarity. The midrange is slightly recessed which means that vocals are not very upfront. The vocals are clear and detailed, but there is some distance from the audience. The instruments are closer to the audience than the vocals and the instrument sounds are quite bodied, meaty and natural.

The lower midrange of the DC01 shows a good level of depth hand has a nicely tuned warmish tonality that makes male vocals pretty natural and musical to listen to. Male vocals have a good depth and thickness and are not affected from negative situations like muddiness.

The upper midrange of the iBasso DC01 is fairly pronounced and controlled. This tuning is avoiding the occurrence of sibilance and harshness of the voice of female vocals. Female vocals are sounding pretty transparent and clear and are also musical and emotional in its presentation.

 

Upper Midrange and Treble:

As I have motioned before; the upper midrange of the iBasso DC01 is slightly warmish, soft and controlled. It’s not too recessed nor to upfront and can me described as mildly pronounced.

The upper midrange transitions are fairly soft and controlled without to any remarkable sibilance or harshness.  From female vocals to instruments such as violins / pianos / flutes, the upper midrange intensity and extension is on a sufficient level.

The iBasso DC01 has a smooth and a bit thick/full sounding treble tonality. The treble range is not too warm or too bright and shows a good level of control and is musical. The level of airiness is on an average level that is enough for a fairly clean and detailed presentation.

The lower treble of the DC01 is more pronounced and detailed than the upper treble region, while the treble extension decreases from the lower treble region towards the upper treble region in a controlled way.

The cymbals of the DC01 have a slightly warmish and thick tonality, while instruments like hi-hats are slightly recessed but the hits are countable. Crash and ride cymbals on the other hand don’t show any negative situations mixings or muddiness.

 

Soundstage:

The iBasso DC01 has a sufficient soundstage performance for the price with a stage that has an average width and above average depth. The DC01 shows a moderate amount of air between instruments and has in general a slightly laid back soundstage presentation.

 

 

Comparison:

iBasso DC01 versus Musiland MU2

The Musiland MU2 has a slightly warmer tonality than the iBasso DC01. Both DAC/AMP adaptors a pretty successful in terms of subbass depth, while the DC01 has the upper hand in terms quantity and extension. Both the MU2 and the DC01 are also successful in the midbass department. The Musicland MU2 is slightly better in terms of midbass intensity and impact, while the DC01 shows a better performance in terms of control and tightness.

The midrange of both devices is musical and smooth in its presentation. The DC01 is slightly better in terms of transparency and detail. Male vocals so sound more emotional with the Musiland MU2 due to its lower midrange depth and bodied, while the DC01 I would prefer the iBasso DC01 for female voices with the higher transparency and clarity in the upper midrange. The upper midrange of the Musicland MU2 is softer and a bit more controlled, while the iBasso DC01 sounds a tad brighter and detailed. The treble range of both devices is has a soft and controlled character. The treble range of the DC01 is slightly more pronounced and has better extension compared to the MU2.

The soundstage performance of both devices is quite enough for this price range. The Musiland MU2 shows a bit more soundstage width, while the iBasso DC01 has a more rounded and airy tuning with better depth.

 

Conclusion:

The iBasso DC01 is a powerful USB Type-C DAC/AMP dongle that features a good implantation of the AK4493EQ DAC Chip, Native DSD (256x), a true 2.5mm Balanced and that will improve the sound quality of your source with its bass response, musical midrange and fatigue free treble presentation.

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Bass Response
  • + Musicality
  • + Powerful Balanced Output
  • + 256x Native DSD Support
  • + Price to Performance Ratio
  • – Slightly hiss with sensitive IEM’s
  • – Upper Treble Roll-Off
  • – No other notable drawbacks for this price range

 

 

 

 

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