iBasso DX320 Review

The iBasso DX300 changed the game. No DAP that came before it combined the sort of smooth, fast operation and broad app support you would expect from a new smartphone with audiophile minded features like a top end DAC, FPGA Master, and swappable amp cards. DX320 builds on the legacy of DX300 with an all new DAC and faster operation on the latest version of Android. So can DX320 live up to DX300 as the newest flagship iBasso DAP?

Build, Design, and Packaging

DX320 comes in a big silver and blue box. Open it up and you get the DAP in all of its glory, front and center. DX320 uses the same form factor and build platform as DX300, so you get something that’s approximately as tall and wide as the larger Samsung Galaxy and iPhone models, but nearly twice as thick. For hardware controls you get long thin forward, backward, and play/pause buttons, and a silver colored volume wheel.

iBasso DX320

DX320 gives you digital ports on the top (USB and 3.5mm digital coax) and analog on the bottom as part of a swappable amp card. The default amp for DX320 is Amp11 MK2, with Amp13 being released alongside DX320’s launch. With Amp11, you get 4.4mm and 2.5mm balanced outputs along with a 3.5mm single-ended output. Whether the outputs function as headphone or line out is selected through the system menu.

Along with the DX320, iBasso includes some cables: the charge/data cable, an adapter for digital coax, and the burn-in cable. You also get some screen protectors and a green leather case for the unit. The green and black looks very nice, but the green and blue didn’t have as strong synergy. Thankfully, the blue is barely visible with the case on, so it’s not a major aesthetic issue.

Interface

The user experience has always been a strong suit of iBasso’s players, particularly for users who do their listening primarily through apps and streaming services. DX320 uses Android 11 for its primary interface, and provides fast, snappy navigation of the OS functions, apps, and menus. As usual, APKpure is loaded on the device as its app store, and you’re able to use it as is, sideload apps, or install another app store based on your preferences. I’ve used the official Google Play Store on my own iBasso devices for years with no issues.

Most of iBasso’s customizations are dropped seamlessly into the Android system. When you swipe down from the top you get Output selection, Digital Filter control, and Gain in addition to the stock Android options, and in the Settings app, there are Audio and Audio Control Button submenus that allow you to configure the specific device functions. There are only two digital filters this time around – slow roll-off and sharp roll-off – with sharp having a small advantage in the speed department, but slow offering slightly more bass response.

iBasso DX320

The included Mango Player fulfills all the basic requirements of a modern media player, with a number of collection sorting and playlist options. There are multiple global settings in the app – most of which duplicate settings from the main menu – but the EQ only affects the output through the player app, not through TIDAL, Spotify, etc. You can also access features like Bluetooth or USB DAC Mode through the Mango Apps advanced settings.

In addition, you can ignore Android entirely and use Mango OS. Mango OS gives you a lightning fast player-only mode that syncs with your music collection in the Android Mango Player. You basically get the same basic design and features as the Mango player, but with a distraction free environment. DX320 in Android mode is already the fastest, most responsive DAP I’ve used, and while it’s probably a bit of overkill if you don’t plan on using any of the Android features or apps, the Mango OS mode takes that lightning fast response to the next level.

Sound

iBasso’s DAPs have always been known for having a neutral, energetic output that delivers strong detail and a well-constructed 3D image to your headphones. With the DX300, iBasso added a touch of smoothness at the top and a somewhat more relaxed feel than previous iterations. DX320 doesn’t reverse course, but it hits somewhere in between – not quite as relaxed as DX300, but not quite as incisive as some of the previous iterations like the DX220.

The bass presentation is linear and neutral with very deep, clear extension, but without any sense of emphasis or a feeling that anything is missing. The mids likewise are full and detailed with strong delivery, and a natural timbre. There are some adjustments in the mids as it leads up into the treble, I found it really hard to make DX320 sound harsh or fatiguing with most headphones or IEMs (the range that tends to impact me the most with fatigue are the upper registers on female vocals, along with some brass and woodwinds). It’s still a very transparent presentation – and the upper ranges don’t feel veiled – but there’s just a touch of added tuning in the upper mids and treble that do a great job controlling potentially harsh frequencies.

iBasso DX320

The spatial characteristics of DX320 are absolutely top tier, and really help set it apart. On an instrumentally complex rock song like “Black Magic Woman” by Carlos Santana, the band exists in a wide space, with each piece of percussion and each instrument having a great sense of weight and positioning. On soundtrack pieces like “Time” by Hans Zimmer, DX320 delivers all the depth, breadth, and height that your headphones can handle – and a real sense of scope to go along with it.

DX320 has solid power, but not A&K KANN or iFi Diablo levels of wattage. It’s a great fit for over-ear headphones in the range of the Audeze LCD-X or HIFIMAN Arya, but struggles with more power hungry planars. The noise floor is wonderfully low, and it works well with just about any IEM you can throw at it.

Comparison: Astell&Kern SE180

Priced at $1499, SE180 is in a similar class of players to DX320 in a lot of ways. While it’s never quite an apples to apples comparison with Astell&Kern and iBasso, it’s definitely worth taking a look at the two devices for comparison. Of course, you’re going to have the same design and interface differences from the start. DX320 is faster, smoother, and supports any number of Android apps. SE180 has a sturdier build with a stronger visual design and better tactile qualities – both in the operation of the hardware controls and simply holding the device. If you’ve been researching DAPs, you know that the same thing will apply to virtually any pairing of iBasso vs. A&K players, but where this is some fresh material is in the sound comparison. 

iBasso DX320

Where I had found DX320’s bass to be neutral to my ears by itself, compared to SE180, there may be a small bass shelf that adds a more impactful quality to DX320’s bass. DX320’s mids remain more full where SE180 feels less rich in the 800Hz to 2k range. The smoothness of the treble in DX320 provides some contrast with SE180 here. SE180 hits with really strong air and stronger definition than DX320, and these characteristics give SE180 a slight edge in some aspects of the imaging. SE180 gives you more separation and space in between instruments and a slightly wider stage, while DX320 provides a more tactile sense of weight to each instrument.

Both units also feature a swappable module system. iBasso has included swappable amp cards as a standout feature of their flagship DAPs since the DX200, while SE180 is the first Astell&Kern player to do so. The main difference between the two is that while the iBasso design only swaps the amp, the SE180 is an All-in-One card which includes the DAC and amp, allowing for a larger degree of sonic difference between each module. The SE180’s system is also a bit simpler, with buttons on the side of the unit to release the modules, while you’ll need to use a special tool to swap out DX320’s cards.

Add it all up, and sonically, the differences between the two devices are fairly small – slightly more bass and midrange for the DX320, along with a little more treble from the SE180, and a mix of character nuances provide small contrasts between the two. The module system also provides two different takes on customizing the sound of your DAP. If you’re prone to fatigue in the highs, the smoother, somewhat more organic sounding DX320 will do well for you, but if you want the widest image possible, SE180 delivers it along with excellent separation and definition.

Final Thoughts

DX320 isn’t a huge step forward for iBasso, but it’s the perfect iterative replacement for the DX300. It’s a well-tuned device with a relaxed yet still engaging sound, and very strong sonic characteristics overall. Of course, there are a number of players that can give you an engaging sound and a great three-dimensional image, but what really sets DX320 apart is the user experience that goes along with it. We don’t usually make superlative statements about products in our reviews, but if you want flagship level audiophile sound and a user experience on par with flagship smartphones, DX320 is the best there is under $2,000.