Final Impressions On The iBasso DX50

Editor’s Note: The DX50 is not a product that we here at CYMBACAVUM are able to endorse. TheDigitalFreak spent many long, painful hours really trying to like the unit, and just could not. Unfortunately, this is not an occurrence unique to the DX50, and is altogether too common a trend amongst recent budget audiophile DAPs. While these players perform admirably from a sonic standpoint, both subjectively and objectively, ultimately they fail to deliver a cohesive experience due to ergonomically flawed and/or buggy UIs.

iBasso Audio is a small company from China known for manufacturing portable amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters. Over the years, iBasso has been able to garner a solid reputation due to its well-priced, well-manufactured products. A few months ago, when iBasso released a new product — the DX50 — as their entry-level DAP, many audiophiles waited with bated breath.

REMOVED: The DX50 is the latest high performance digital audio player from iBasso. Picture from: iBasso Audio

Roughly a year before the DX50 was released, iBasso released the DX100, their flagship DAP. It was designed to be versatile — able to drive voltage-hungry orthodynamic headphones such as the Audeze LCD-3, reactive dynamic headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800, in addition to high sensitivity IEMs. People cheered. However, when it first hit the market, the DX100 was quite buggy and required numerous firmware updates in order to get the player performing properly.

Currently, while the DX100 has been patched to functionally acceptable levels, it really isn’t ideal, especially for a product that commands a retail price of $899 USD. Despite these foretelling issues, however, the DX50 was still much ballyhooed at announcement, as it was to be released into the market at a competitive price point: $239 USD — a third of the price of the DX100, and still boasted considerably impressive technical specifications.

Under the hood, the DX50 sports a respectable (and ubiquitous) Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip, 8 GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot for expanded storage. iBasso claims that, in addition to SDHC, it supports the new SXDC format revision all the way up to the limit of 2TB. To further expand on storage capabilities, the DX50 can be connected to an external hard drive via an OTG cable.

The player’s OS can be navigated via capacitative touch screen as well as three physical buttons (FR, Play/Pause, FF) located underneath the screen. When playing a song, there is a slide bar located under the song title which documents the songs progression as it plays. This slider can be utilized, via touch command, to fast forward or reverse to a certain area of the song. Volume control is located on the left side of the player and is a 256 stepped digital attenuator.

The unit’s overall form factor is a mixture of hard, durable plastic and brushed aluminum. In my opinion, the DX50 feels well constructed and solid in one’s hand.

Sound Impressions

Note: The following audio impressions were noted while using firmware version 1.2.5. The DX50 was also benchmarked against other players in my possession such as the HiSound Studio V 3rd Anniversary Edition, CLAS-db/RX MKIII-B mobile rig, and the Astell & Kern AK120.

The DX50 is a nice sounding player and a clear step-up from an iPod or many of the less expensive MP3 players commonly found in various box stores. The sound signature was neutral and balanced, with a nice tinge of warmth. The overall presentation was cohesive, with a balanced and smooth sound.

The treble was extended, with some small but noticeable roll-off at the top of the audio spectrum. The treble region had some nice sparkle; enough to keep me interested, and was slightly forward in its presentation.

The mid-range detail, although lacking for my tastes, is acceptable and not overly lush. Vocals were slightly forward and sounded pleasing. For me, male vocals stood out and sounded quite nice.

Bass is full-bodied with good extension and texture.

Although the lows were acceptably controlled, I would’ve preferred a little more linearity as well as a little more depth and detail. Note decay was acceptable but when pushed, think metal bands such as Megadeth, Quo Vadis or Dragon Force, the DX50 mid-range could sometimes sound smeared due to lack of speed.

Although it took a bit of time, depending on the size of the hard drive and the amount of files there were to scan, the OTG feature worked generally well.

Operational Troubles

Overall, I have no qualms saying the DX50 is an acceptably-sounding player for the money invested when it worked properly. The problem is that I had nothing but problem after problem trying to get it to properly work. My first unit refused to communicate to my PC due to either a hardware/software problem, was sluggish, froze various times and I was forced to send it back for replacement.

The replacement unit was no better.

Although I was able to update the player with the newest firmware, which added some much-needed fluidity when navigating the OS, other problems arose. To date, no matter which card I use, I have not yet been able to get my unit to scan all the music files on my SD card.

In addition, I’ve yet to be able to use my DX50 for more than ninety minutes without the player freezing, forcing me to open the DX50’s back plate, and pull its battery thereby forcing a reboot.

While trying to evaluate the DX50, when on the go, in a span of two hours, I was forced to do a battery pull three times.

Do I hate the DX50? No, I don’t. I think the DX50 has some very good potential and is competitively priced for the quality of sound it’s able to produce.

The problem is, as with many other boutique players, the OS is far too bug-ridden and unstable to provide an acceptable user experience. I would welcome the opportunity to re-evaluate the DX50 at a later date in an attempt to change my final opinion.

As is, I cannot in good conscience recommend the DX50 due to a myriad of bugs, experienced by myself and other consumers, until a certain acceptable level of functionality is attained. Until then, I can only recommend that the DX50 be passed up for other more functional players.

I cannot in good conscience recommend the DX50

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