Review: iBasso DC02 (USB DAC)
In 2015, I became the owner of a USB DAC, worth $2000 from a Chinese manufacturer. There were a lot of laudatory reviews on the Internet for this device. And at that time, indicators such as 384Khz/32bit were really a breakthrough in the market. But in fact, the built-in sound card of my iMac, which is low quality, beat the $2000 device. And audiophile power filter and cables could not help this miracle. Then I realized that all the reviews for this $2000 box on the Internet are good work by marketers and have nothing to do with the real product. And I made a promise to myself that I would never buy Chinese audio masterpieces again...
But in 2019, I wanted to improve the sound of headphones from my smartphone and computer. And after viewing many reviews, I decided to take a chance on $55 and ordered on Aliexpress in "ZK-LICHIFIT Store", a whistle called iBasso DC02.
If you still don't understand the reason for telling my short story with the previous device, I'll tell you straight, the iBasso DC02 is also epic fail! And if you really need a decent USB DAC, go past it and look for something else!
I would like to note that I do not encourage you to be snobbish and do not buy Chinese audio. I urge you to be careful in the market. Moreover, I know from my own experience that among Chinese manufacturers, there are many brands that offer really high-quality goods!
Why iBasso DC02 is an epic failure
So, two weeks after the order, I received this audiophile toy. It was a small, square cardboard box containing a compact DAC with USB type-C and an adapter for standard USB.
The design was very worthy. After all, aluminum is a beautiful metal and the shape of the device design looks quite good (Pic). On this my joys ended and problems began.
Firstly, I didn't hear this epic sound when I connected. On the contrary, the bass was very high and so much so that after 30 minutes of listening, my head started to ache and I thought that soon my ears would bleed. No, do not think that I was listening to music at full volume at this moment, I'm talking about the volume is not higher than average. Moreover, at a higher volume, this device produces strong distortion that turns high frequencies into a light whistle, which makes listening impossible at all.
Second, the device has problems connecting. For example, if you are connected to the phone and the left earphone is not playing, you need to reconnect the USB-C to the other side (flip the plug). For the same reason or because of driver curves, sometimes Windows may not see this device. That is, the DAC is connected, but it is not found! I figured out this situation and realized that it works better without drivers at all, so Windows is easier to recognize the device and all possible settings are available for choosing frequency and bits (Pic.). Just connect and restart Windows
This is kid, also refused to work through ASIO driver in "Fruity Loops" and "Album Player" at all. The sound is there, but with creepy artifacts and without volume control. There may be something that can be done, but I didn't see the point in it, just a waste of time for me.
I also tried special Android players that feed audio directly to DAC and Hi-Res files of high resolution. But the sound remained the same and the DAC also served as an amplifier or adapter...
Of course, after all my suffering, I decided to try to return this miracle back to the seller. We corresponded with him for a very long time, I sent him several videos and screenshots like a proof of the not stability work of this device, and he diligently proved to me that the DAC is fixed and the video shows that the sound of DAC is high quality. Once again, "Sellers can determine the level of audio quality from headphones by video"! Well, if you don't understand, this is just a lie in order not to return the product!
As a result, the seller offered to send me the product back or compensation of $5! Compensation of $5 out of $55 is of course a very heavy joke for the customer and I could not send these toys back to China, because the cost of the parcel is equal to the cost of the device! So I only added a negative review.
The iBasso DC02 still has advantages
Of course, after the disadvantages described above, you are unlikely to be interested in the pros. And by the way they are, but are no longer really relevant.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the design, compactness and quality of the material. It is worth noting the correct solution to connect the DAC by wire, which will help to save the USB connector of a smartphone or computer from damage (Pic.). Unfortunately, many manufacturers sin this and in this case iBasso DC02 has a significant advantage over competitors.
There is definitely an improvement in midrange in the sound and it may fascinate you at first, but given the strong distortion, you will soon return to your built-in sound card and just enjoy the absence of distortion. iBasso DC02 drums are played in their own special handwriting, they are very fast and it is the speed, not the rhythm. But at the same time, not everyone will notice all these changes, for example, many of my friends did not hear the difference in sound when connecting to a phone or computer.
What is the result with iBasso DC02
Someone will object to after reading this review. Because, have there are a lot of positive reviews and just a cool presence 32bit/384kHz filling!
With regard to reviews, I think many do not know what really HI-FI. Or succumb to mass euphoria as with iPhone, it's when they are proud that they have it, but all day long they try to find where to charge their iPhone... By the way, I have seen the bewildered comments of people who did not hear the difference and are currently using this DAC as an adapter or like amplifier.
As for the presence of AK4490 and 32bit/384kHz, this is not a guarantee of high sound. And in fact, it's just marketing. The fact is that to open 32bit/384kHz level, you need a very expensive audio setup, which from 99% people simply do not have. In addition, you need competent circuitry and power supply for the device. Of course, in the solution for $55-75 this is unrealistic to do!
And so, be careful and don't lose your money!