The year 2019 witnessed some major shift in the use of portable audio equipment, and USB Type C dongle DAC is one of them. Audiophiles usually carry a big DAC+AMP stack for their portable music listening while other casual users have to adjust with their phone’s 3.5 mm output. Many users use phones like LG G6 only because of their Quad DAC feature but these flagship phones are not at all affordable. So for budget buyers, ultra-portable type C DAC Dongles became a bridge between portability, budget, and superior sound. Among all the type C DAC dongles I have tried, possibly iBasso DC series is the superior specification-wise but I have skipped the DC01 as I don’t have many balanced cables. This iBasso DC02 unit has been purchased by me from Penon audio a few days back and posting the review after prolonged testing.
- Model Number – DC02,
- DAC Chip – AK4490EQ,
- THD+N – <0.001% (32ohm load, 0.9Vrms),
- Output Voltage – 900mV (32 Ohm load),
- Frequency Response – 20Hz ~ 40 kHz +/-0.5dB,
- Structure – Aluminum,
- OTG Plugs – Type C USB 2.0,
- Analog Output – 3.5 mm (No Mic support),
- Cable – 4 Silver plated OCC Litz cable,
- USB Protocol – UAC 1.0/ 2.0,
- MAX Decoding –PCM up to 384 KHZ/32 bit & Native DSD up to 256 x,
- Compatibility – Windows, Mac OS, Android 5.1 +, IOS (I pad pro with Type C),
- Weight – 8g,
- Length – 120mm.
What’s in the Box
- iBasso DC02 DAC dongle,
- USB A (2.0) to type C converter,
- User Manual.
Product Link – Here
Apple OS doesn’t need a driver. Windows 10 users first need to install the driver first. Portable devices like Android phone or IOS devices also don’t need any driver or software, iBasso DC02 is a plug and play device. Still, iBasso has provided a volume control app for android for ease of use.
Window Driver – Here.
UAC Volume control app – Here.
Windows 10 PC, Realme C2 Phone, TempoTec V1.
Presentation, Design & Build Quality
Presentation is normal; iBasso DC02 comes in a small white paper box. Top of the box, an image of the device and backside of the box all specifications have been printed. Inside that outer box, the device has been placed in a foam with a USB type A to C converter.
Design and build quality are very good. Silver-Gold color plugs and matched 4 Silver plated SPC cables complementing each other very well. The cable is strong and has carefully twisted, but instead of 4; iBasso could have used 8 separate wires like the iBasso DC01.
The connectors have been wrapped in a thick aluminum shell to avoid any radio frequency interference too. iBasso DC02 is not like other common USB type C DAC, all the electronics are present on the 3.5 mm plug side instead of type C plug. The 3.5 mm connector side is almost the size of a thumb drive and a blue led is also present to indicate the working status of DC02. So overall presentation, design, and build quality are exceptionally good.
Output power, Noise level, and Efficiency
The output power of iBasso DC02 is 900mV (32 Ohm load); which is not huge, but enough for most of the IEMs. Around 40/45 volume steps are enough for IEMs and 55/60 for non-power hungry headphones. Through the UAC app,
iBasso DC02 supports only 64 steps of volume and probably the rest 26 steps are restricted to limit the battery drain and high volume distortion. Surprisingly even with sensitive IEMs, no background noise is present. iBasso DC02 is not too efficient, it drains the phone’s battery around 15% faster than other type C dongle DACs. DC02 also heats up a bit high when using with smartphones but no heating issues when using with PC/Laptop.
iBasso DC02 is equipped with AKM’s one the best and probably widely used AK4490EQ DAC chip inside and is almost a balanced sounding DAC. In this review, I am using a few of my favorite and frequently used IEMS and headphones so that I can easily evaluate the actual sonic characteristics of DC02.
Lower frequency part in iBasso DC02 is packed with full of surprises. Both sub-bass and mid-bass performance are almost identical to other AKM4490 DACs. Bass is fast, accurate and the decay is perfect. Both in terms of quantity and quality, iBasso DC02 is capable of producing a good amount of energy in bassy tracks. The sub-bass rumble is present and overall a punchy and quick bass can be obtained if your IEMs are capable fo doing it.
Mid-range is where most of these type C DACs struggles the most, especially the ESS DAC equipped ones. With AKM4490 iBasso DC02 is capable of producing dynamic and lively midrange. The added warmth in mid-range is responsible for both male and female vocals sounding lush and the string instruments are also sounding crisp. When watching movies on portable devices iBasso DC02 is an exceptionally good device to bring out the dialogues.
The treble frequency part has been extended and it’s on the dry side but no such harshness is present. The treble part is airy and can be fatigue for long listening sessions if your ears are treble sensitive. With IEMs like Fiio Fh5 and Fearless Audio Crystal pearl, the extended higher frequency part has been very useful to achieve a balanced sound. With dynamic drivers IEMs/Headphones treble is sparkling but with B.A driver IEMs treble is a bit dry.
Soundstage/ Instrument Separation
The added soundstage is wide but not super wide. Instrument separation is good and can handle complex tracks too. iBasso DC02 can give a new life to your dull and boring IEMs with its ability to render great clarity and details.
DD TC 35 Vs iBasso DC02
DD TC 35 is only 20$, and a very good type C DAC. Now when comparing it with iBasso DC02, you can easily notice that DC02 has some extra benefits in comparison with TC 35. The build quality of DC02 is better, the power LED in DC02 is also a useful thing. iBasso DC02 is also capable of producing good bass which sometimes DD TC 35 can’t.
Audirect Beam Vs iBasso DC02
Audirect Beam is almost double the price of iBasso DC02 and physically a different type fo type C DAC. Audirect Beam has two extra features like a volume/play/pause button and a detachable cable. Soundwise Beam is a bright sounding DAC where DC02 is almost balanced sounding and suitable for all kinds of music. If I have to choose between them, DC02 is my easy choice for its less price and smaller size.
BGVP T01 Vs iBasso DC02
Another type C DAC, that I have tested a few days ago is BGVP T01. T01 is also cheaper than DC02, and its build quality is also not as good as DC02. Sound-wise T01 is also a good DAC but when comes to depth and dynamics iBasso DC02 is much superior to BGVP T01. One thing T01 has, it’s extremely power efficient.
I have used iBasso DX150 digital audio player before and what I like in iBasso products is their build quality and unique design. iBasso DC02 is not an exception here, well build and eye-catching design. Using a high-performance DAC chip inside such a small device is challenging but iBasso has managed to do it without sacrificing the sound and price. iBasso DC02 after plugging in an ordinary smartphone, you can achieve almost the level of sound of a high-end digital player or a similar portable DAC+AMP set up easily.