Epic Transportable HiFi | iBasso D16 Taipan & PB5 Osprey Review

Epic Transportable HiFi | iBasso D16 Taipan & PB5 Osprey Review

iBasso’s MAX series players, offered in limited quantities every few years, are one-of-a-kind digital audio players that take the brand’s standard player designs and step up their component quality and optimize the signal path. PB5 Osprey and D16 Taipan (both $1499) take iBasso’s flagship MAX technology and splits it into separate DAC and amp components that let you capture elements of that limited edition experience in a more flexible manner. Can these two halves add up to a whole flagship experience? And how do they perform on their own?

Top Level Info

  • Osprey (Amp) and Taipan (DAC/Amp) can be used in tandem or separately.
  • Osprey features Dual Nutubes which add a little more flavor to the sound.
  • Each of these units is approximately the size of a MAX series player, but they’re significantly lighter.
  • These are not pocketable, but could easily be transported to and from the office, or used for mobile playback from a backpack.
iBasso D16 Taipan and PB5 Review

Build and Design

Both units feature an industrial looking matte black chassis with a smooth glass window. The knobs are all stepped attenuators with notable physical feedback, while most of the switching is done through simple toggle switches that are nearly flush with the chassis. The units are surprisingly light given their size, but the size – particularly the thickness – prevents them from being easy to use on the go.

Taipan provides inputs via USB-C or a port that supports both mini-coax and mini-optical standards, and splits the USB-C charging from the data port. Outputs are 3.5mm and 4.4mm which can be used for headphones or line out. Osprey provides input only via 4.4mm balanced, but both 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs.

iBasso D16 Taipan and PB5 Review

Both units include a green leatherette case and a nice array of cables that will be useful for getting the devices connected. Taipan includes USB-C and Lightning OTG cables, along with a coax-mini interconnect. Osprey includes two 4.4mm interconnect cables – one about 6 inches long, and the other closer to 12 inches.

Using D16 Taipan

Taipan has a fairly simple interface: a monochrome display and two knobs, one of which can be push in as a button. A short press on the button turns the display on or off, while a long press opens the menu. From the menu, you can set high or low gain for the DAC and Amp stages, select the input, and set the output mode to line out or headphone out. The knobs represent the separate headphone and DAC sections, allowing you to balance the headphone and pre amp output.

Using PB5 Osprey

Osprey is about as simple as it gets for an amp design. The 4.4mm balanced input is on the front of the unit next to the headphone outputs and volume knob. On the back you just get high and low gain. Osprey is designed for you to simply plug it in and turn it up. Where Taipan’s glass panel is part of its display, Osprey’s has micro tubes behind it, which light up when the device is on.

iBasso D16 Taipan and PB5 Review


Osprey and Taipan both have a clear iBasso pedigree, but while Taipan leans into the more analytical end of iBasso’s sound, Osprey provides a natural warmth that balances out the sound when the two are paired. As a combo, you get a balance of clean details and powerful impact, with a spacious soundstage, and a total package that matches – and maybe exceeds – iBasso’s most recent MAX player.

As a DAC/Amp combo, Taipan is no slouch by itself. The level of detail is extraordinarily high, and its 4V max output can manage a decent range of over-ear headphones.  While the sound is a bit dryer than the Osprey, those looking for a high-end portable DAC with an ultra-clean, detailed reference sound, that don’t need a high wattage output, will find that Taipan’s Class A amplification is excellent in its own right.

Osprey likewise can be paired with any number of portable DACs or DAPs to create a complete portable powerhouse setup. The way that Osprey delivers space and dynamics means that when you pair it with players like the iBasso DX260 or Astell&Kern SR35, your portable setup feels like it’s been transformed into a flagship system.

iBasso D16 Taipan and PB5 Review

Comparison: iFi Diablo 2 and D16 Taipan

Diablo 2 and Taipan both offer their own flavor of flagship portable DAC experience. Where Diablo 2 offers more power with a feature set and package that’s very much “everything but the kitchen sink,” Taipan offers a simpler, more refined take on the flagship portable experience. If you want features or power, Diablo2 is the way to go, but for pure sound quality, Taipan has the edge.

Both devices lean towards a neutral, reference delivery. Diablo 2 has a more aggressive edge to the sound with a more forward treble that has some notable bite. Taipan offers a more balanced treble presentation with a highly revealing sound that has less tendency for harsh overtones.

Comparison: Cayin C9 and PB5 Osprey

The Cayin C9 has become the go to option for a high end, portable, tube amp, and for good reason: it’s power and flexibility exceed that of just about every other portable option out there. The two key options you have with C9 are Class A vs. Class AB and Tube vs Solid State. Osprey doesn’t offer the same level of features, but it executes that one sound incredibly well. Osprey is closest in character to the Class-A/Tube mode on the C9, with strong detail and a big dynamic presentation, underlaid with a subtle warmth.

C9 can be both more incisive than Osprey and more relaxed. The Class AB/Tube mode gives you a softer top end and a warmer overall timbre, than Osprey, while the Solid State modes offer more of a reference sound. Where Osprey really shines in this comparison is that the overall detail matches C9’s solid state options while the timbre is closer to the warmer tone of the tube mode.

iBasso D16 Taipan and PB5 Review

The Bottom Line

Priced at $1499 each, Taipan and Osprey are aiming for the top of the portable audio pile. While the features and options can’t keep up with some of the competition, the pure focus on sound quality matches or exceeds the competition. Together or apart, D16 Taipan and PB5 Osprey can offer excellent portable experiences that combine for a truly top of the line, flagship transportable combo.