It has been an amazing year or two now for the revival of the humble DAP or mp3 player as we used to call it. Hifiman, Colorfly, iRiver’s Astell & Kern, FiiO and now Ibasso all coming out with a vision of what a modern audiophile wants in their DAP and whilst they all look quite different, the core elements are much the same in terms of what they all want to pitch and that is a wider variety of musical formats that simply play better (and longer) than your average convergence or mobile device. We recently reviewed the FiiO X3 which is more in the budget range and whilst I felt it was a work in progress they had all the fundamentals right for tonality, battery length and a reasonably workable UI with frequent firmware updates. The DX50 from Ibasso comes hot on it’s heels at a slightly higher price range but the DX50 for me is a much more ambitious project and despite its UI growing pains, could seriously be considered the bargain DAP of the current crop out their in the market for top notch sound quality.

We had the DX50 from Ibasso for a while now, both 24bit and I, well 24Bit had it quite early and hence his review is very much a growing experience with the various firmware revisions of the DX50 where as mine came shipped with FW1.16 and relatively bug free. After getting the X3 review done and having tried most DAP’s out there including Cowon, Ipods and Zune’s I had a very open mind as to what to expect and frankly the pics released made the DX50 seem very sexy yet manly, more so than the diminutive AK100/120 from Astell & Kern.

The DX50 hardware (marcusd)

The DX50 itself in the flesh is almost perfect for my hands in terms of size, weight and dimensions. It is not too small nor too heavy and the ports are easily accessed with no flaps or extensions likely to fall off. It is very well thought out indeed. It is more modern looking than the X3 and more akin to a bulkier AK100 in that respect. In some respects, and this is more preference than criticism, I would have like to have seen the headphone, line out and gain bottom plate at the top and the usb, microsd and coaxial top plate at the bottom – essentially a reversal. I know for some this might mean less tension on the jack port but for me it just feels more natural the other way round when using it. Again this is just a preference issue.

The touch screen is capacitive, accurate and reasonably clear though not really HD but not necessary for a DAP. It is a pretty fast responding screen though at times the options are a little cramped in terms of going back and forward at the top and bottom but the overall good accuracy of the touchscreen means I rarely miss the button I am supposed to hit. What I do love is the big 3 physical buttons just below the touchscreen. Basically back, forward, pause and play – the basics but they are crafted so well and extremely useful for on the go stop and start which a touchscreen cannot replace speed wise.

To the left you have the power and the lock button which pretty much do what they are supposed to do and on the rigth you have digital up and down volume buttons which sometimes don’t do what they are supposed to do. In V1.16 the volume dial was a little inaccurate like a wheel trying to slow down in wet weather and even in v1.2 pressing the volume up and down can, on the screen, resulted in slightly inaccurate incremental decrease or increases. It is fairly manageable but do not expect AK100 type control but then again I am not sure why this should be hard to manage in the first place. A small issue right now but I would like that one to go away quick with a firmware revision.

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Capacity wise the DX50 has a rather miserly 8GB onboard of which about 2.5GB is lost to the OS leaving around 5.5GB for storage. Thankfully you have a microsd slot that is very scalable taking 2/4/8/16/32/64/120GB microsd without any need to reformat to FAT32 like the AK100 but unlike the AK100 sadly only one slot and not a dual slot meaning you top out at about 133GB at current affordable capacities. To combat that, DIY and accessories guys take note, the DX50 micro USB is also OTG meaning it can handle up to 2TB in off-board powered external drives or in my case a handy little short OTG cable and 64GB flash pen. My 30php CDR King cable worked right off but oddly my Gadget King shorter one did not, both with same specs so lesson is try before you buy for OTG.

The DX50 can decode the usual audio standards including MP3, Wav, ALAC, Flac and for some buddies of mine, rather joyfully, OGG. The full list is at the bottom of the article under the specifications sheet but I do not think anything really has been missed. Tag reading is competent and accurate though only the album directory in 1.16 shows the artwork. I usually tag with MP3Tag so your experience may vary but so far everything has read correctly and I am loading 100% Flac in both internal storage and 64GB Microsd card.

Battery life came in around 12-14 hours and upwards depending on my playtime and what I was playing. I just upgraded to v1.2 so I cannot say for sure that if that will prolong things but given the upgrade log list I am not sure that was on the things to achieve with the latest firmware. Still that is a pretty respectable battery life for a DAP and compared favorably with the X3 from FiiO.

Upgrading the firmware

My experience of going from 1.16 to 1.2 was pretty smooth. I did get one img error in rebooting during the upgrade but I just tried it again and it went through pretty quickly with no errors. Firmware files are pretty big at 220+mb and I would advise to always make sure your external cards are out before flashing just in case. That is SOP for me on any firmware upgrades I have done before though it may not be necessary; old habits die hard. 1.2 adds some enhanced playlist functions, cue file recognition and some more language formats.

All in all a solid physical device with great battery life, accurate touch screen, plenty of storage capability with no FAT32 formatting thankfully. Some minor preference choices on the jack placement and a hope that the volume control buttons increase in accuracy with any new firmware.

Now then what did 24bit think of the DX50?…

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About The Author

Senior Reviewer

Self Proclaimed Musicality Guru, Photographer, Audiophile and part time Ninja. I started my audio journey back in 96' and haven't looked back. My ultimate goal in this life is to experience as many Hifi rigs as possible...because I am an audio addict.

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  • donunus

    Updating from 1.1.6 to 1.2 makes the sound less alive and wider? Oh no

    • headfonics

      Not sure Don since I listened to the upgraded 1.2 and not the stock 1.16, 24Bit might be able to help more on the wider variations between each FM upgrade.

      • 24bit

        I just backtracked the firmware to v1.16 and the vocal experience is definitely larger and more forward, more of a bloom effect. With that bloom effect in the vocals, the stereo height appears taller than v1.2. I definitely prefer the sound signature of the v1.16 despite the longer load times on my sd card upon boot up.

        v1.16 is mid forward and more engaging

        v1.2 is more relaxed in the mids and only seems wider and less tall because of the lack of mid-bloom effect.

        • headfonics

          So is it worth it to downgrade and stay there on 1.16?

          • 24bit

            Not worth the bugs for my personal preferences, no. I’ll stay on v1.2, its much more stable.

  • joseph marco perez

    Wow! That is one long DAP review but it looks like a compelling counterpart to the X3. While the X3 is now available in here in the Philippines, would you know if Ibasso is selling the DX50 it across Asia? Hope it will be available here in PH since I’ve been waiting for this. Thanks!

    • headfonics

      Check with Rico of Egghead if he is going to be selling locally and also Dinkoy on headphiles is doing GB for the DX50 as we speak I think. Jaben should be stocking it and so is Treoo of SG.

      • joseph marco perez

        Great! Thanks a lot!

    • 24bit

      Detailed reviews are a good thing, right? 🙂

      • headfonics

        Amen to that.

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  • Michael

    Thanks for the review, guys – just ordered mine.

    May I ask you to recommend some portable headphones for DX50? I have ATH-ES7 and would like something lightweight and foldable too.

    • headfonics

      Try the Senn Momentum On Ear’s if you enjoy bass.

      • Michael

        What about ATH-ESW9? I’m not oriented solely on bass, rather interested in overall balanced (and not harsh) sound (mainly for modern jazz)

        • headfonics

          I think they are a little dark and tubey, the esw11Ltd, popularizing for some, but better for me with a brighter signature and more dynamic top end.

  • Gabriel

    Hey, I know this isn’t a new article by any means, but now that the DX50 firmware is stable (and people seem to be enjoying it tons more than in the beginning), do you have any comparisons between the DX50 and FiiO’s X5? I’m looking to upgrade from my iPod classic. I’d mostly be using it with my Mad Dogs and a FiiO E11, if that helps at all. Thanks 🙂

    • headfonics

      I need to go back to the DX50 but since the DX50 shares the same UI as the DX50 I can speak about that in comparison with the X5.

      Right nw I think the FiiO X5 UI might be more to your taste than the DX UI coming from ipod. It is just a little bit more in-depth than the DX UI with more tweaking capability. However the physical button arrangement of the X5 and the lack of touchscreen might make you pick up the DX UI instead.

      Personally I would opt with the DX50 with an E11 and Mad Dogs but there is a power question with that Mad Dog and the X5 might have a bit more grunt.

      • Gabriel

        I do much prefer the physical form and the touch screen of the DX. With the more recent firmware updates, do you still have problems with frequency extension on the DX50?

        • headfonics

          Sadly I no longer have the DX50 beside me to let you know if there is a frequency extension change.

  • WeirdG

    Hi… I was just wondering if anyone tested the DX50 MEGA SOUND EXPLOSION SECOND EDITION firmware by Doc2008 on their DX50? I’d like to know if there’s any improvements with using that versus the stock v1.5.0 firmware from iBasso.

    I should be receiving my DX50 in the mail this week, but am unsure if I should install MSE 2nd edition or iBasso’s v1.5.0 firmware.

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