It is indeed ironic that I just finished reviewing the FiiO X3 DAP wherein I questioned if there is enough pulling power for android fanboys to get off their beloved OS and onto something more unique only to find the next item at hand was the D42 Mamba by iBasso which instead targets the very group FiiO are trying to attract by complimenting and consolidating an android or usb on the go lifestyle rather than taking them away from it. It is a fair fight afterall in the audio market and there are a million different ways these days to hook up your source beyond simply the headphone jack and ever increasing quality (and price) to go with it.
That the Ibasso D42 Mamba retails for $188 and is both a DAC and Amp (upgrade of the old D4 actually) with usb on the go and sporting a dual Wolfson wm8740 decoding design speaks highly of the determination by IBasso not only to keep their line-up fresh but also their target market pretty clear ahead. $188 is a tempting proposition to anyone with an Android slab or a PC and wondering how to maximize both and comes in $12 cheaper than the X3. That is competition for you.
The refresh of the old D4 comes in a number of ways also for your $188. In comes a sleek new hairline metal enclosure in either silver or black and silver. The unit pictured is the pure silver hairline finish and it looks and feels really classy. It is slightly bigger in dimension to the old D4 but comes in roughly 30g lighter than the old D4 and also comes packaged with that all important usb-on-the-go cable for out of the box compatibility with selected Android mobile phones, a usb cable, 3./5-3.5mm IC, 2 straps and a soft pouch. Other aspects include a nice enhanced volume pot dial with good tactile grip and smooth and steady performance without any noticeable low volume channel imbalance or unsteady volume jumps. The amp in the D42 is exactly the same as the older D4 with low and high gain switch at the front so the major revisions outside of the cosmetic or build focus primarily on the DAC performance.
I did a comparison of both (sadly because I do not have the D4 anymore) in terms of their specs on the website and interestingly I could not pin point what those improvments technically where. Both sport Dual Wolfson WM8740 and both have TI PCM2706 signal receivers so I am presuming it is somewhere in the topology and implementation of both the USB and DAC chips. What we do know is that the PCM2706 is a 16/48 receiver as opposed to 24/96 or any of the newer variations and the amp is a respectable if not ultra powerful 230mW x 2 and most know the Wolfson WM8740 to be a fairly respectable and well received chip.
Click on next page for sound impressions…