The D14 Bushmaster by iBasso
Tonality7.9
Build & Features8.9
Matchability8.9
Value For Money9
8.7Our Score

I am going to sound like a stuck record since I said almost the exact same opening as I did for the FiiO Q1 but the reality is the iBasso have also been the other raging success in the audiophile world with regards to high quality mid-priced DAP’s over the last 3 years. So much so that it is so easy to forget what made their name and that is high quality portable amps and DAC’s. I have always considered iBasso to be “nerdy exotic” compared to FiiO’s “streamlined consumer” image. iBasso products for me constantly challenge in a new way rather than seek to project something that is merely good but cheaper than the rest. I get excited with iBasso products quite easily and rate the DX90 as probably the best all round mid-tier DAP in the last year or two.

The D14 Bushmaster was only recently released by iBasso but it has all the hallmarks of an iBasso classic amp/DAC release and carries forward some of the sensibilities and capabilities of the D10 and D12 into the modern era. Pricing is competitive at $229 and sits behind the all new P5 Falcon flagship portable amp (which we will review also), the PB2/DB2 and just ahead of the D42 and D Zero Mk2. It is a mid-range product for iBasso but it is packing a lot of essential features and I/O’s that will appeal to DAP users both budget and high end.

What You Get

When I first started buying iBasso products they used to come in medical grade white boxes chock full of accessories and a snazzy soft leather pouch. These days iBasso is commercially much tighter with a far more integrated offering and the D14 is no different. It’s all cardboard but much like AK is tastefully done. iBasso have wisely stuck some key unique selling points that we know audiophiles look for on the back – HD, 32/384 PCM, 256x DSD, 400mW amp and OTG. That’s a trick FiiO could learn from iBasso on the budget amps because when I am out shopping these are the things that might attract me to pull a unit down from the retail shelf. It does also contain further tech specs like the DAC chip etc which appeals to the “nerdy exotic” angle. It’s the type of information that helps make decisions.

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Inside you get a wide choice of cables, the amp itself, a soft velvet suede pouch, a cardboard warranty card, sticky feet and rubber bands. I still would prefer the older leather pouch, it felt premium over the velvet pouch which is much the same as what you get with the much cheaper D Zero Mk2. It is well padded, perhaps more so than the leather pouch which is a plus. The cables that come with the D14 are as follows:

  1. OTG Mini USB to MicroUSB
  2. Mini USB to USB A
  3. 3.5mm analog IC
  4. 3.5mm SPDIF IC

It is possibly a bit unusual these days to see mini USB still being used on small portable devices, especially for OTG but that’s what iBasso have chosen to go with. It does mean that a vast majority of OTG cables already owned might become incompatible given they are mostly micro to micro USB. Luckily the supplied OTG cable is a good quality short right angled cable that works rather well for stacking purposes with most mobile phones. The SPDIF cable for me is a bit too thick overall and leaves a rather large footprint when stacked with the DX90 or an AK120. Personally even if good quality I would prefer a shorter thinner one for better portability. The 3.5mm short analog IC is pretty much the standard IC iBasso have been packing in their offerings for many a years and does the job adequately.

Build Quality & Features

Form Factor

The D14 form factor is pretty much your standard portable amp chassis design with functions to the front and rear and flush casing top, bottom and both sides. Size wise it measure 60W x 104L x 20H (mm). It’s medium to small, being slightly larger than say the RX from ALO and the Picollo from Cypher Labs but significantly smaller than the Theorem 720, shorter than the Cayin C5 and about 10% smaller than the Cypher Labs Duet. It’s not as modern looking as say the Oppo HA-2 or even as svelte as the E18 so OTG stacking with your portable phone might not be as pocketable as you would like but it does stack nicely with the DX90 which is almost a diametric match when placed on top.

The finish on the D14 is excellent, nothing DIY about this amp. Although the D14 builds on the design aesthetics from the D-Zero MK2 in terms of quality it’s definitely a notch higher. The front and back silver finished metal plates exquisitely machined and clearly labelled. All switches have a solid resistance to prevent them from being accidently moved and the volume pot resistance switch is reassuringly tight and loud when turned on. Unlike the D-Zero MK2 the jack ports are recessed instead of fitting flush so no issues with those big Palic 3.5mm plugs sitting flush against the metal plates when inserted.

Front

To the front of the D14 you have a 3.5mm jack input, an aux or line input, the low or high gain switch and an analog pot, all with good labelling that is easy to read. Spacing is good, one of the benefits of a slightly largest amp so those stacking should not have an issue throwing some short IC and an IEM or headphone cable jack. Even large aftermarket plugs are well spaced out. On/off is controlled by a resistance switch on the volume pot.

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The volume pot has a nice degree of resistance on the turn also to prevent accidental jumps in volume, you have to apply a small amount of force in that respect if you want to increase or decrease the volume. The same also can be said of the gain switch which will not move up or down with the merest hint of elfin breathe.

Rear

To the rear are the majority of the inputs and a small control switch to determine which input is active. You have three choices – analog, USB or SPDIF 3.5mm and select either by a mere flick of a switch. The SPDIF connection will accept both optical and coaxial so X and DX series DAPs alike will work fine as well as Cayin’s N6 and the AK series of DAP’s for digital connections. That’s a wide variety of sources right there.

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To the far left you have the mini USB socket for OTG and the DAC interface with a PC or MAC. OTG is officially supported unlike the Q1 from FiiO so in theory that means a wide range of smartphones should be able to connect and work with the D14. Drivers need to be downloaded for DAC functionality for Windows. You also have a further option to charge and play at the same time when interfacing as a DAC with a charge switch at the back but note during OTG this will drain your smartphone as it will use the battery from the phone to charge the amp. Best to switch this one on OTG or face the prospect of your phone draining dry very quickly.

Inside

The DAC

The D14 uses the same DAC found inside the DX90 DAP, the Sabre32 ES9018K2M. The D14 though does not deploy a dual DAC setup, instead it is implemented with single chip configuration. This is increasingly becoming the ‘go-to’ DAC for portable configuration. It is highly scalable with a low power consumption and known for excellent clarity from top to bottom with a neutral to bright performance depending on how it is setup. For the DX90 dynamics were extra special, tuning after burn in was neutral and smooth and treble was articulate with excellent extension. That does not mean the D14 will be a carbon copy of the DX90, remember their is the amp section to consider but generally speaking warm, tubes and thick sounding is not going to be a trait inherent in a ES9018K2M chip.

Did I mention scalable? The ESS chip, portable and Jnr to the main chip it maybe, is still capable of decoding at some seriously awesome levels. With the XMOS USB receiver the D14 can churn out up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD up to 256x in DAC USB mode. That is about as good as it gets resolution wise and thoroughly spanks anything FiiO has out right now in terms of resolving power. Even the Aurender Flow tops out at DSD128 and it sells for $1k plus.

The Amp

iBasso have, at this time, chosen not to reveal the precise combination of opamps for the amp section inside the D14 so all we have are the ratings to go by and they are pretty decent actually for an on-the-go portable amp. Output power is a not insubstantial 400mW+400mW into a 32ohm load making it far more powerful than the RX from ALO, and more than twice as powerful as the Piccolo from Cypher Labs. With an SNR of 116DB and an impedance output of less than 0.1ohms it should also be more than capable of working with a wide variety of sensitive IEMs right up to the most efficient planars such as the PM-3 and HE400s.

The Battery

The D14 houses a built-in 4.2V Li-polymer battery that does very well indeed on paper, though not to D-Zero MK2 standards for amping. It does a very respectable 25 hours using the amp only and 13 hours of deploying the DAC also. Compared to the Q1 from FiiO that’s only 5 short of its rated 30 hours but way shorter than the D-Zero MK2’s 120 hours rated amp time. It’s on par though with the Creative E1 and better performing than the E3 also from Creative.

Higher up the scale it performs very similarly to the Picollo DAC/Amp which is rated at 24 hours on amping and anywhere from 12-18 using the DAC so the D14 is competitive in terms of the latest portable DAC/Amp tech on the marketplace. Note these top end figures may drop depending on the codec resolution you are pumping through it and DSD256 sure as heck will reduce those numbers.

Page 2: 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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  • M.Daniyal

    Can you please try pairing Ibasso D14’s dac with Cayin c5 amp ? is it worth pairing,any sound improvements and such ?

    • headfonics

      The C5 is more musical and colored than the more neutral D14 and has the edge in pure power.

      Both have excellent soundstages but the D14 has more treble extension and also sounds more articulate up top whereas the C5 has a stronger bass response.

      Both have excellent imaging but the timbre on the D14 is more accurate.

      So you are pairing the C5 with the D14? thats a triple stack right there – I would say the resolution of the D14 on DSD is a nice match for the amp of the C5 if you plan to use planars and aiming for power and a warmer tilt. The clarity stakes lie with the D14 amp.

  • Miko Belardo

    Another solid review, marcusd!

    I purchased the iBasso D14 mainly based on your positive review as there don’t seem to be many reviews of this item out there. A leap of faith, but it paid off big time so thanks very much! This is my first DAC based on a Sabre chip and I find the clarity and detail it delivers very much to my taste.

    I currently pair the D14 with my Dunu DN-2000J and enjoy this combination very much. Would you consider this an unorthodox pairing? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • headfonics

      Hay Mike thanks for the big vote of confidence and glad you liked the D14. Sadly I never tested the DUNU gear, sort of just passed me by to other reviewers here so I am not sure if it is weird or not.

  • Rodrigo Lourenço

    Hi,

    I’m looking to improve the sound of my Ibasso DX50. In Fact i don’t want another amp, unless something in the the market can make a revolution on my ears, as i love my alo continental. I’ve tried mojo, which everybody loves, but didn’t like! The definition i’m looking for is there, but i could use it for more then 30 min, even with Alo.

    Do you think i can get that transparency with D14? Or other portable suggestion….

    Thank you

    • headfonics

      I think the Mojo is far better than the D14 to be honest but the D14 gives you a very layered and spacious sound.

      What are your cans?

      • Rodrigo Vieira dos Santos (MAs

        I use two types, the k702 a the bw p5, mas depends where i am. I use the bw more, because i work in openspace, and they close the sound in and out

        • headfonics

          It might be too thin for the K702 which is a power hungry headphone even though it isnt rated as such. The P5 is warmish so it might mesh better with that but then again I dont have either anymore so its a bit of a guess from aural memory.

          • Rodrigo Vieira dos Santos (MAs

            Thank you! If you have New ideas, no matter the price, please tell me.

          • headfonics

            Change the DAP or buy a new headphone and keep the continental 🙂

          • Rodrigo Vieira dos Santos (MAs

            Which dap do you advise me? The big deal with this headphones are not the sound, is the size and the confort…i can take them everywhere, without feeling ridículous and with a stone on my head. and ideas for this size, and closed?! Thank you again

          • headfonics

            The DX90 is great option if you can find one or the FiiO X5ii, that in combination with the NAD HP50 will lift your game considerably without making your head a bit strange.

          • Rodrigo Vieira dos Santos (MAs

            Thank you! Do you think nad is better than the k 271mkii? The d14 is better that the dx90 a a dac, isn’t it? And cheaper

          • headfonics

            I have not tried the K271 mk2 but I have the K240 and the K500/501/553/812 and in each instance I found the amp of the D14 to be more spacious than the D90’s internal amp.

            However the D14 has a classic shiny treble which might not gel as well with any AKG headphone know to have a bright treble.

            The D14 though is more powerful than the DX90. Remember the DX90 is a DAP so thats where the strengths are.

          • Rodrigo Lourenço

            Once again thanks for your help. What i mean is keep the dx50 as source, the d14 only as dac, and the continental as amp. On the other i really have to change my headphones, it’s True! Maybe my True gain is that point.

          • headfonics

            Always the headphone change will give you the biggest return for the least money.

  • Ph0n6

    Hi,
    I just hear it at the store and I really like it. Just wondering how it compares to the JDS C5?

    • headfonics

      This is from aural memory and someone with the C5 may hear differently but I believe the JDS C5 might be a bit more neutral and flatter than the D14 amp.

      • Ph0n6

        Thanks for the reply. What about the Dragonfly 1.2 then? Also what is the “next upgrade” from this D14 in your opinion?

        • headfonics

          I have not tried the Dragon 1.2 but from the D14 you are looking at the Oppo HA-2 at the most likely upgrade.

          • Ph0n6

            The feature does seems attractive (though it doesn’t have coaxial out, I want to use it with my speaker) but what about the sound? And are there any portable DAC/amp in the range of 400$? I seems to only find either under 300 (fiio, ibasso, oppo) or over 500 (M8, Mojo)

  • Illia

    I mostly listen to Pink Floyd, Dire Straits kind of music from my laptop and i want to know whether or not this device is a good upgrade? I eventually choosing beetween this and “Nuprime Udsd”. Please help to understand the difference and decide. Thank you in advance.

  • Anthony Lim

    Can you give me comparison which have the blackest background/dead silent between D14, Alo RX Iem Analog Amp, and Picollo Ampli? For example from most silent to noisier

    • headfonics

      Using what source and IEM/headphone?

      • Anthony Lim

        Sorry for replying late. My DAP FiiO X5 1st gen & IEM Zero Audio Carbo Doppio, & ATH E40, both iems are sensitive IEMs. Now I’m using Picollo but now I want to trade X5 1st gen & Picollo with celsus sound companion one (for my smartphone) so I can use spotify for streaming. Could you give me somes thought about it? About SQ, black background, power, etc. I wiill appreciate some of your recommendation too. I’m an IEM guy who seeks technicalities more than fun factor. Thanks Marcus.

        • headfonics

          The Celsus Companion one is a big step up from the Picollo for me. It’s a Sabre DAC but implemented very well with a clean natural tone and good extension in either direction. Your only problem it likely size and complexity as I do think the Companion One onboard labels for what does what is not well explained. But if you can cope and learn how to configure it you will enjoy it a lot more.

          • Anthony Lim

            Thank you for your opinion, really aprecciate it. Now I am waiting for my package to arrive at my office 🙂

  • Millo Muniz

    How does this (IBasso/D14), in DAC mode, handle DSD files? I listen to my music directly thru a streaming service?(Tidal)

    • headfonics

      Just set you primary audio device to the D14 on your PC or MAC. If I have not tested Tidal before but on Spotify it will just look for the default device and decode using that.

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