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iBasso D2 Boa Headphone Amplifier - iBasso D2 Boa Headphone Amplifier

By Stuart Andrews

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
iBasso D2 Boa Headphone Amplifier

Summary

Our Score:

8

Meanwhile, the D2 seems to lend a new sense of 3D space and rich orchestral detail to the Karl Boem recording of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, creating a sound that could be truly epic in one breath, elegant and restrained the next. I hesitate to say that the difference is night and day, but it's certainly close, and while best appreciated with FLAC or WMA Lossless files, it's still apparent with 256K and 320K MP3 files and even - hurrah! - Spotify.

Before we get too carried away, I should note that the benefits aren't so pronounced if you're already equipped with a high-quality sound card. Switching to my desktop system with a Creative X-Fi Extreme PCI audio card installed, I'd still say that the D2 produced a warmer, richer sound with enhanced clarity and mid-range presence, but it's a difference I'd be less inclined to pay £165 for.

If you're a serious audiophile who has invested hundreds of pounds on headphones, then your opinion will probably differ. Don't your HD650s or RS1s deserve better when you're listening to your CDs?

Indeed, when compared to the competition the D2 is actually good value for money. Unfortunately I was unable to source a Graham Slee Grand Voyager for direct comparison, but while that amp is renowned for its superb sound and excellent value, it's heavier, uses chunky 9V batteries and doesn't include the D2's DAC. When you consider that dedicated headphone amps can cost anywhere between £100 and several thousand pounds, the D2 does well in straight bang-for-buck terms.

Does that necessarily mean that you need one? No. If you just want to make your iPod sound better then the FiiO E5 will do the job for under £20. Or why not ditch your iPod and buy a better sounding player from Sony, Samsung or Cowon, and spend the cash you've saved on headphones?

If you want better audio from your PC or notebook, then a new internal or external soundcard would seem a more cost-effective solution, albeit one that won't provide you with the same kind of quality. But trust me, ‘need' has nothing to do with it. Find some good headphones and give the D2 a spin and you might not need one, but you'll definitely want one. I have, and unfortunately for my bank balance, I do.

Verdict

A great sounding portable headphone amp that doubles as an outboard DAC for PC listening. Try it with the right cans, and you'll never want to listen to your headphones without one out again.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Value 8
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Features 8

intothevoid

April 23, 2009, 3:54 am

Thanks for the informative review Stuart - I am really tempted, but was wondering if you had a chance to listen to an ipod hooked up to this through a pair of Shure SE530s?

StuAndrews

April 23, 2009, 2:53 pm

I'm afraid I haven't. Generally speaking, I found the improvement in sound with in-ear models to be less spectacular than with full-sized cans - partly because the in-ear 'phones tend (as a rule) to be easy to drive. I'm sure you'd find some difference, but whether it's 𧵝 worth of difference is another matter.





For anyone else out there, I've just been listening to the iBasso with the iPod and a pair of Sennheiser HD595s and the results are extremely impressive. Superb clarity, positioning and definition, as you'd expect from the Sennheisers, but now with a little added welly.

Shaun @ HiFi Headphones)

April 23, 2009, 3:29 pm

We've had some very enthusiastic comments from customers using amps like the iBasso D2 to drive IEMs.





In my experience it's worthwhile with high end in-ear earphones (like the SE530) if you feed the D2 from the Line Out Dock (30 pin connector on the bottom of the iPod). It's particularly effective with higher impedance models like the Klipsch X10 or Sleek Audio SA6.

Hugo

April 23, 2009, 3:50 pm

To echo Shaun, I've always found the iPod/iPhones particularly poor at driving dual/triple/quad driver phones as they generally require more power (simple logic, no?). so a headphone amp - especially amplifying the line-out not the headphone jack - would be worthwhile.





I'm definitely tempted to get one of these for my desk at work - lossless audio files through a decent DAC will make me very happy!

Chris

April 23, 2009, 4:14 pm

As I type I'm listening to my iPod from its line-out, through a CMoy amp and into a pair of SE530s. I can confirm that the amp lends the audio a far more powerful sound, warmer in tone but far superior to what I get from the headphone jack - particularly at higher volume. My amp's actually a Penguin Royal, as featured in TR's 'Fire in the Head' article.

StuAndrews

April 23, 2009, 7:00 pm

Shaun and Hugo are right on those points, and it's definitely worth experimenting if you have some high-end IEMs - particularly high impedance models. I didn't have any that were that expensive or that refined to hand during testing (by preference, I tend to use over-the-ear 'phones myself).





As I said in the review, the results I had with full-sized phones and the line-out on an iPod Touch were actually quite amazing, and I'm still listening to FLAC and Apple Lossless files through the iBasso from my PC nearly a week after writing the review (usually when I should actually be doing other things). If you have the cash, it comes highly recommended.

Carl Abudephane

April 23, 2009, 7:10 pm

To use the line-out 30 pin connector from the i-pod, what sort of cable would one require in order to get the best results?

Chris

April 23, 2009, 7:31 pm

@Carl: Depends how much you want to spend. A simple 3.5mm stereo cable from any of the myriad iPod docks will do the trick. At the other end you can spend $200 on an ALO Cryo cable. There's a lot of conflicting opinion on how much difference the extra money makes.





Here's the iBasso adapter: http://www.ibasso.com/en/produ... You can get these for around 㾸 with some Googling.

comedian

April 23, 2009, 7:33 pm

I've had my d2 for about a 6 months now and have loved every minute of, especially paired with my Grado's.





I have a pair of Phonak PFE's which have a relatively low impedance rating and they are almost brought alive when using with my 5g rockboxed ipod, heaven.





For LOD's you can;t go far wrong here http://www.aloaudio.com/store/... and here http://www.qables.com/shop/ind...

LaszloCruz

May 27, 2009, 3:49 am

Comedian - Wich Grado's have you been using with the d2?


This amp looks very atractive. Im on my way to order some Grado SR80 and I have been thinking about getting a nice amp to get a good sound, it's just that I have been suffering because some say that they don't need to be amplified at all. I also have consider the Total Bithead amp from the guys from Headroom but it seems that the Ibasso is a better one.

Eskil

May 29, 2009, 3:10 pm

Ive measured it's performance based on the USB DAC. It is important to notice that the first analog stage after the dac clips with 0dBFS in, it's unclipped with -3dBFS in (or below).


In plain words - you need to set the volume in your playback application to maximally 71%, ie the volume in media player or winamp. Else it will clip.


Maximal not-too-distorted output (if you plan driving a poweramp or active speakers with it) is 1.2Vrms

oldie

October 29, 2009, 2:54 pm

The real question is whether the Lithium Ion battery is replaceable. Otherwise the whole thing is useless in a couple of years. There is a monstrous conspiracy of silence regarding this nowadays.

ealltech

May 7, 2012, 2:30 pm

I like the monster headphones, the sound headphones price what kind?

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