First, it was Apple and iPhones. Then Google and their Pixels. This year, it’s Samsung’s turn. In the last 3 years, all have removed the 3.5mm headphone socket from some (or all) of their smartphones.
On wireless alternatives, Sony leads the pack with their Bluetooth WF and WM noise-cancelling models. Those of us not yet ready to make the switch to a Bluetooth headphone are forced into dongle hell where the smartphone-manufacturer-supplied adapters are 50c pieces that often sound worse than the previous generation smartphone’s 3.5mm output.
For those of us who care about smartphone-centric audio quality, China’s iBasso are soon to release their ‘DC’ USB-C adapter that features separate AKM DAC and headphone amplifier chip/s. iBasso know that most smartphone manufacturer-supplied dongles are designed only to get the job done. Their ‘DC’ circuit is designed to sound better.
With USB audio support enabled in the host device (Android only — check with your manufacturer) and the iBasso dongle connected to its USB-C port, the smartphone will send ones and zeroes into the iBasso dongle for it to handle decoding and headphone amplification. Hi-res support takes us deep into unicorn territory where, for some Android users, UAPP will become an essential software partner in realising the iBasso’s potential: PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256.
Additionally, the iBasso dongle will more-than-likely elevate the sound quality of a MacOS or Windows computer by bypassing its internal decoder/amplifier in favour its own audio wizardry. A USB-A adaptor is included in the box for those who need it.
The iBasso ‘DC’ will arrive in two variants:
The DC01 dives headlong into advanced head-fi territory with a balanced circuit and 2 x amplifier chips augmenting an AK4493EQ DAC chip and outputting via a 2.5mm socket. The more mainstream-friendly single-ended DC02 gives us an AK4490 DAC chip and a single amplifier chip to output via a 3.5mm socket. Each unit is 12cm long, with the DC01 (11 grams) offering ‘8 core’ wire and the DC02 (8 grams) loaded with ‘4 core’.
iBasso will also make available a companion Android app for superior-sounding volume control.
There is no word on an iPhone version nor how thirsty the DC01/02 will be for an Android device’s battery power. However, at €50 a pop, iBasso gives us yet another reason to stay with our smartphone for music playback. No DAP required.
Further information: iBasso