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The DAP days are over (Part 5: iBasso DC01, DC02)

  • This is the fifth in a series of posts called ‘The DAP days are over’. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

    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

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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