One important note is this DX90 was tested with firmware, V2.0.0.Β 

Matured OS

iBasso played a smart one by not trying to throw out a brand new OS and GUI for the DX90. Given the fact they borrowed much from the DX50 in terms of physical appearance it would only seem logical to throw in the same OS also given the amount of time the team has spent revising and upgrading it in the last year or so. Those who care to remember the DX50 coming out with V1.0 will not have fond memories of multiple freezes, illogical menu flow and gimped cul de sacs when using the DX50 as their regular DAP. Many typical features seemed missing that should have been there during the initial launch.

Today we have version 2.0 and upwards and boy things are very different now with the OS on the DX90. With the DX90’s superior number crunching power over the DX50 you a much more settled, mature and responsive OS. With the DX90 it feels a little snappier, screens are loading faster and media is loading up in a jiffy. Gone are those irritating playback freezes, long media file scanning times are shorter and the lack of decent playlist support has been fixed. Whilst is not quite Rockbox and I still think the X5 has a slightly deeper and more involving settings menu I do believe everything you need is right there now and most importantly it just works on the DX90 out of the box.

Some minor quibbles

The DX90 still boots up into the playback screen so you do still have to go from there to any sort of central menu system by either clicking My Music or Settings. I would honestly prefer if it booted up into one central menu and from there select your music or your settings. Also given the rather shorter battery life on the DX90 I would still also like to see the battery shift from the far right to an omnipresent icon in the middle of the top row. As per the DX50 experience it is really only on the playback screen that I can see if the DX90 battery is about to run out of juice.

Some new features since I last checked out the DX50

I am also super delighted iBasso actually added my beloved Genre – Artist – Album drill down library feature after much incessant nagging on the original DX50 firmware by my good self. I have been hankering after this feature in the new wave of DAP’s from FiiO and iBasso for about 2 years now and they finally agreed late last year to do it. There it is and it works great. If you have any issues check your tags as I only had one Null tag out of something like 2000 tracks loaded up on a microsd card.

Previously I would have a ton of Null files on the older OS versions. I also religiously tag my files so I do not have to rely on hard drive folder searches on large capacity memory cards so working a flat file system like the X5 and DX50 was a bit of a pain. Working through the Genre system on the DX90 had zero pain and once all was scanned on initial loading everything felt pretty snappy. For those getting more than 1 or 2 Null files a “wipe and factory reset” should help to lower or get rid of the null orphan files. Once reset try the scan again to remove the Null files.

DSD compatibility of sorts is onboard also with the DX90. Whilst the DX90 Sabre32 DAC does not decode native DSD it will convert DSD to PCM 24/88 which is pretty darn good actually. Just make sure your files are using the DSF (Not DFF) extension rather than the native format. Korg Audiogate’s snappy conversion process is pretty handy also for converting to the DSF format and ensuring you have the right bitrates. As far as I am aware DSD64 is the highest level of bit depth you can use for the DX90 but correct me if I am wrong here.

Click on next page for sound impressions…

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About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • I may have missed it in the article, but if I have 2000 songs where both the filenames and internal tags are in the format ‘Artistname – Songname’, can I get directly to ‘Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker’? I was not able to do that with the FiiO X3.

    • headfonics

      I have the same format, I have artist, album, title and it shows just fine in the internal directory transferring using winamp.

      Using the metatag option (My music – artist or genre) all my albums showed in perfect order under artist name and even my fav genre, artrist, album, song title.

      • You windows users you…

        • headfonics

          It really whips the Llama’s ass!

      • But you didn’t answer my question. How do I immediately select the song I named? On the iPhone, I press the ‘L’ button, then in one to 1.5 seconds I scroll to the song. How would that work with the DX90?

        • headfonics

          Well thank you Dale for being a bit more clear with your question.

          You dont have an L button on the iBasso because there is no keyboard so you operate it exactly in the same way an the ipod Clasic UI using the touchscreen. That is a drill down system.

          • I get it now – that’s cool – thanks.

          • headfonics

            Welcome!

  • headpspace

    Any comparison with the clarity and sound signature of the DX-50 should take into consideration what firmware is installed on it. Each firmware has a different sound signature and some of the custom firmwares by Doc2008 i.e ”Mega Sound Explosion’ take the DX-50 to another level.Any user can get a lot more mileage out of the DX-50 by experminenting with firmwares, the sound sginature is chosen with a databse system and even Ibasso play around with this for each release. Also, The very poor battery life of the DX-90 cannot be ignored, and it is an area that Ibasso seriously need to improve upon for the next device. The gap between the 2 players is also seriously reduced when using Line out to an amp.

    • headfonics

      There are differences tonally but it is reasonably safe to say the DX90 technically is a big leap up. Those who chose the custom firmware are going to be in the minority over those who choose to upgrade with the official firmware.

      I think we covered the battery and I did say a better battery is needed.

      I believe most of that is a consequence of opting to go with the same ergonomics of the DX50 but with increased processing power and same battery basically. Some have tried a bigger one but it just make the DX90 look pregnant with a proper backplate.

      Line out and DAC potential is going to be a review in itself with the X5 etc next month.

      By the way heck of an email address you have there πŸ™‚

      • Ash

        Has the DAC potential review out? Link? Thank you.

        • headfonics

          Ah its still on the table for 2014, lots of new product reviews to get out of the way first but I will get there dont worry πŸ™‚

          • Ash

            Good to hear, I look forward to it!

            It’s an aspect that is rarely expanded on, but IMO really adds to the value of these high-end DAPs.

          • headfonics

            You are dead right – its a value add that rarely gets discussed.

  • Li_An

    Hello,
    very interesting review. I hesitate between the DX50 and the DX90. I need one FLAC/MP3 player as musical groups tend to sell FLAC files and no more CD. So it’s to listen on my HiFi equipment not with headphones. Which one must I consider ?

    • headfonics

      If you want better resolution then the DX90 is probably the right choice.

      • Li_An

        Thank you. I bought finally the DX 90 πŸ™‚

  • Rik P

    Hello, Great review!!!
    I currently own a Cowon Z2 which is paired with a Nuforce amp and Polk 8000 headphones. Would DX90 be a significant upgrade to the Z2? also does the DX90 have featutes like recently added playlists?

  • Kyle Caalim

    Does anybody have a clue to what happened to iBasso? I haven’t heard anything from them but their website is broken and nobody seems to know what’s going on with them. The only thing on their website is the downloads page for the firmware. This makes me want to not purchase the DX90 because I will not be able to contact iBasso for their customer support in case I am ever in need of anything.

    • headfonics

      Sent them a health check email as I noticed this also. I will update you if I have any further news. Thanks.

    • headfonics

      All is well, new web site under development with new product lines πŸ™‚ Go buy that DX90 hehe.

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  • Does anyone know if there are any limitations on the database with this device? I know there is a limit with the Fiio X5, variously reported at 5200 or 7000 songs, but I need something that will take 10,000+.

  • awake

    great review for a great DAP

    Ibasso produced a winner here, imho.

    • headfonics

      Yup agreed and its one I have been using quite regularly to this day.

      • Fossil Bob

        Nup. Disagreed.

        • headfonics

          On what?

  • Grimy Strings

    Just bought this off amazon. Love the sound, but I’m confused by the variable line-level output. Battery life also seems to be lower when running at full volume.

    • headfonics

      Saw this reason in Head-fi that saved me a lot of writing πŸ™‚

      It has got a true Line Out bypassing the amp section but it is variable instead of being fixed. iBasso did it on purpose, I remember there was a discussion about that many months ago.

      I guess it is variable because the DX90’s volume is being adjusted in the DAC, not the amp section, therefore they might just have taken the signal path from the DAC and lead it directly to the LO-jack (therefore a fixed LO wouldn’t even be possible if my theory was true).

      Just set the volume to the maximum ammount if you are using the LO, as it would be the same as if it would have been a fixed LO (though you shouldn’t forget to reduce the volume if you want to use headphones straight from the DX90).

  • Andy Liang

    Which is a better match for the Sennheiser IE80s? the Ibasso dx90s or the Fiio x5? I personally listen to hip pop, rap, electronic and most other genres.

    • headfonics

      Hmm have not done an IE80 listening session in a long time so from aural memory I would say the DX90 for superior dynamics.

  • Freckle

    Great review, I am considering this DAP and have also looked at the FIIO X5. The X5 has 256GB storage; the DX90 has 64gb of internal storage – I did not see how much internal storage the DX 90 has – can you provide that info?

    • headfonics

      The DX90 has 8GB onboard memory with a single microSD slot (SDXC and SDHC MicroSD Card) that can take up to 2TB in theory, tested with 64GB no issues and an OTG compliant microSD port that can handle externally powered HDD or flash sticks up to 2TB.

  • Fede

    Great review! I am getting a DX90, my only concern is that the treble would be a little harsh, I usually hear music on my IPOD, any thoughts on that comparison?
    Thank you.

    • headfonics

      Actually the DX90 treble extends well and clear though it is quite well controlled for me compared to the X5 which has a metallic edge to the uppers. The DX90 blows the ipod treble out of the water.

  • Li_An

    It depends how you use it: if you use line out with HiFi installation, you should put the volume at 255 (max) to have the best sound.
    If you use it with hearphones (IEM), it depends on how much power the headphones need to work correctly (Dx90 manages most of headphones but some of them need a lot of power). So you may have to put a high level for volume – 120 for me with my headphone a AKG. So, no surprising you do not hear anything at 70.

    • Anuradha Kharmate-Palve

      Is it Dx90’s natural behavior ? (Sound is just Quiet from 1 to 90. on low Gain)

  • Dorea

    how does this compare to Fiio x7?

    • headfonics

      Personally I think the stock IEM module of the X7 is more neutral and flatter than the more dynamic and slightly bass enhanced DX90 but that is only half the story. The UI is light years ahead on the X7, the apps make it more involving with streaming and of course they still make the X7. In defense of the DX90 is it smaller, possibly more robust and you can replace the battery once it dies.