Tag Archives: Digital Audio Player

Pioneer XDP-100R Digital Audio Player – The First Digital Audio Player with MQA – My review 

  

Welcome to my review of the Pioneer XDP-100R Digital Audio Player.  The Pioneer XDP-100R is Pioneer’s first high-resolution portable music player. It is also the world’s first Hi-Res Digital Audio Player to support MQA technology. The Pionner XDP-100R retails for £499.

Master Quality Authenticated is a new music codec that packages Hi-Res and lossless files in a way that takes up significantly less space than current Hi-Res codecs. It is like the music is zipped and during playback gets unzipped. The other aspect of MQA is that it can still play on non MQA supported devices, albeit not at the same level of quality.

MQA can also be used in streaming services. That means much lower downloads too. Tidal is planning to support the MQA format in due course.

MQA support will arrive on the Pioneer XDP-100R via a firmware update fairly shortly.

  

The XDP-100R is extremely well built using an aluminium frame. Just look at the photos. It has removable bumpers on the top and bottom of the device to stop headphones and the micro usb cable placing strain on the input sockets. That is a really neat touch.

The bottom edge also houses the loudspeaker. On the right hand side you have 2 micro SD card slots, music controls and the power standby buttons. The top is purely for the headphone jack and the left hand side is the volume control.

The Key Specifications –

– Aluminium build for extended durability strength with removable bumpers
– 4.7 inch (1280 x 720) touch screen for easily navigating music les
32GB Internal storage (Max 432GB capacity with 2 expandable SD slots)
Two (2) SD card slots for extended storage (Max 400GB/200 x2, Micro SDXC type)
– Built-In Wi-Fi® (802.11b/g/n or 802.11ac)
– Built-In Bluetooth® with aptX® (A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, OPP, HID, PAN)
– Built-in speaker
– 3.5mm Stereo Phone out
Micro USB B/OTG Digital out
– Battery Life: 16 hours (96kHz/24bit Playback)
Separate DAC/AMP circuit board and CPU circuit board
– Available in Black (XDP-100R-K) and in Silver (XDP-100R-S)
ESS SABRE® DAC ES9018K2M
Headphone AMP SABRE 9601K
– Qualcomm® APZ8074 Processor (2.2 gHz Krait 400 Quad-core, AdrenoTM 330 GPU 450 mHz)
Android 5.1.1 with Google Play
– X-DAP Link for content le transfer (PC to DAP)
– OnkyoMusic.com Direct Download
– Output Power – 75mW + 75mW 32 ohm
– Impedance Support – 16-300 ohm
MQA® playback support (with firmware update) DSD File Playback: Convert to PCM 192 kHz/24-bit (3.5mm Phone/Line-out mode)
– Up to 11.2 MHZ DoP/ Direct Transfer and Up to 5.6/2.8 MHz DoP/ Direct Transfer/ PCM (Micro USB-B)
– Hi Res file Playback:
– Up to 192 kHz/24-bit 32-bit Integer/ oat 24-bit down convert (3.5mm Phone/Line-out mode)
-Up to 384kHz/24-bit 32-bit Integer/ oat 24-bit down convert (Micro USB-B)
Sound Arrange Function:
– Up-Sampling 192kHz/24-bit (3.5mm Phone/Line-out mode)
– Up-Sampling 384Hz/24-bit Real-time DSD Convert 5.6MHz (Micro USB-B)
Six built-in sound adjustments (Lock range adjust, digital lter, upsampling to 384 kHz, Realtime DSD conversion to 5.6 MHz, High Precision EQ, Club Sound Boost)

Notes for this Review

FLAC and MP3 songs were used for this review. MP3 songs at 320 bit rate.

Headphones used included Sennheiser HD598se, Dunu Titan 5, Denon MM400, Audio Technica M50x and Sony XBA-A2.

Bluetooth headphones used were Plantronics BackBeat Pro and Lindy BNX-60.

The Operating System

  

Pioneer made a good choice and based the DAP on Google Android 5.1.1. That means that in addition to your own music you can stream music from all your favourites places. Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz are preinstalled.

APT-X is present for using Bluetooth. WiFi and DLNA is also present so streaming music to another device is possible.

The Pioneer XDP-100R runs a near stock version of android. Extra apps include Pioneer’s own music app and the Onkyo Music store app. This means you can buy Hi-Res music on the XDP-100R, then download and start enjoying your purchased music immediately.

The Sound Quality and Operation

The Pioneer will plays lots of different formats from MP3s to 24-bit/384kHz FLAC, DSD, WAV and AIFF files. The DAP has 32gb on board storage. You can then insert 2 x 200gb micro SD cards. Battery life is stated at 16 hours. In testing I achieved 12-13 hours but I was playing around a lot with the DAP.

Pioneer has included their own music app. And it’s seriously fantastic. And looks the business. You have tons of different ways to find your music. Upsampling options, club sound boost mode options , equaliser, crossfade, gain, USB Audio, digital filter options and much more. I like the fact that the song artwork becomes your home screen wallpaper automatically. This can be prevented if required. 

Playback via Bluetooth

APT-X is present for audio playback and the sound quality was superb using this method. For this test I listened to a number of different genres. I do like the fact that bluetooth is an option on this DAP. It really adds to its versatility. 

Playback via Wired Headphones

This is where the XDP-100R shines. As I mentioned above I tested the DAP with a range of different headphones to establish an overall opinion. 

FLAC – The Humming by Enza – The Pioneer recreates the delicacy of Enya’s voice superbly. The bass, treble and mids are all on the mark. It is worth pointing out that the volume increases from zero to 160 in small steps, allowing for precision volume control of all of your headphones. 

FLAC – Paavo Jarvi – Frankfurt Radio Symphony – Symphony No 1 in G Minor Op. 7 1 Allegro Orgoglioso – As the music escalates , the Pioneer XDP-100R keeps up nicely and delivers plenty of extra oomph as required. The sound is well balanced across all frequencies.  The sound field was reasonably wide too.

FLAC – Stravinsky Chamber Orchestra- Schindlers List – the piano is so moving. And delicate and precise. Wow. 

MP3 – Michael Buble – Feeling Good – Oh gosh Michael’s voice is delivered with such authority, slam and attack. The bass is fantastic. Accurate and firm and not over the top. 

MP3 – Nina Simone – The Other Volume – Nina’s voice is reproduced so well and with such musicality and feeling. The piano and other instruments are all clearly heard too. 

MP3 – Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You – a punchy powerful reproduction with the XDP-100R. All the vocals are superb with a strong bass line. 

MP3 – Muse – Defector – A powerful musical rock performance by the Pioneer. Stunning. 

MP3 – Gypsy Kings – Moorea – the guitar playback and rythym is beautiful. 

In fact my main takeaway with the Pioneer XDP-100R is the fact it possesses such musical, engaging and powerful sound qualities. I found I could close my eyes for hours and hours and enter a different world. 

All my headphones sounded brilliant with the Pioneer. The Sony XBA-A2 are fairly bass neutral / light but with the Pioneer they came alive. The Pioneer possesses superb bass attack, treble and mid range. Where appropriate the sound stage is dynamic and wide. The toe tapping musicality of this device makes this one additive machine. 

Conclusion

The Pionner XDP-100R is a great entry by Pioneer into the personal digital audio space. It is future proof with MQA codec support and versatile with WiFi, DLNA and Bluetooth APT-X and the ability to add 2 high capacity micro SD card support. In addition, it offers superb sound quality making the whole package rather attractive. Highly recommended.

Pioneer XDP-100R-K High Resolution Digital Audio Player deal on Amazon UK

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iBasso DX80 – Digital Audio Player – My Review + Using the DX80 and Chord Mojo Together! – Updated with New Firmware

Welcome to my review of the brand new digital audio player from iBasso, the iBasso DX80.

  
In the box are a number of accessories, some of which are rather neat –

– iBasso Quick Start Guide
– Warranty Card with individual serial number and date stamp
– Silicon case – this is a neat addition to protect the device
– 80cm micro USB cable – charging, card reader or DAC
– Burn in cable adapter
– Male Coax (RCA) to 3.5mm Mono short cable
– 2 screen protectors. I already have fitted one so all my photos include a protector.

  
One of the usual pieces included is the burn in cable adapter. iBasso suggest the DX80 needs 50-100 hours to reach its full potential. There are several ways of doing this. One is to plug your headphones into the DAP and play music at a moderate level for 100 hours. The other option is plug this cable adapter into the headphone socket and play music at a moderate volume. No sound will be heard, but the DX80 will be perfectly burned in. When burned in, the DX80 can reach its full sound quality potential since the capacitors will be formed and the electronic components used all stabilised. I have burned the DX80 for over 250 hours before writing this review. There is a difference in the sound experience from trying it straight out of the box to a 100 plus hour burn in.

  
Headphones used for this review are Sennheiser HD598 SE, Audio Technica m50x and Denon AH-MM400.

The key specifications are

– Bit for Bit playback, support for up to 24bit/192kHz. native DSD up to 128x.
– Dual Cirrus CS4398 DAC Chips
– XMOS USB receiver with Thesycon USB Audio driver. Easy to use USB DAC.
– Dual Si TIme MEMS Oscillator
– Built in 10V voltage swing headphone amp with up to 260mW output power
– 3.2 inch screen with a resolution of 480*800 IPS screen.
– Up to 24Bit/192mHz mini optical output/mini coaxial output
– 3.5mm Headphone output, 3.5mm line out output
– 3 physical buttons for previous, play, pause, next
– 150 step volume control
– eMMC onboard memory
– Dual micro sd card slots, up to 2TB each when cards available
– Audio formats supported – APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD
– Support for M3U playlists
– 3,600mAH battery – 13 hour playback
– Line out has a set voltage – 1.6Erms (1kHz,0db)
– Frequency Response:17Hz ~20KHz +/-0.1dB
– S/N:-116dB +/-1dB
– THD+N: 0.001% Crosstalk: 107d B (1KHz)
– Headphone out: Output Level: 2.9Vrms(32ohm Load).
– 260mW into a 32 ohm load.
– FrequencyResponse: 17Hz~20KHz +/-0.1dB
– S/N: -114dB +/-1dB (32ohm Load)
– THD+N: 0.002% (32ohm load)
– Output Impedance: <0.1ohm
– Size: 120mm x 63.2mm x 16.8mm
– Weight: 178g

First Steps

This is my first Digital Audio Player. I have really wanted to experience an iBasso product but have never taken the leap of faith that says having a dedicated device for playing your music is worth the extra effort required.

  
After the initial charge period, I checked the firmware to see that it was on version 1.12. From reading a few forums, I was aware I needed to update it to 1.14. To do this you have to download this from iBasso’s website and copy it across onto to the second micro SD slot in the root directory. You also need to make sure if you’re on version 1.14 or lower that to update the firmware you need a small sized non SDHC micro sd card. Luckily I had a 16gb card laying around. If your DX80 already has v1.14 you won’t need to worry about this limitation. Basically, each firmware update fixes bugs and adds some new features over time. The firmware update itself is a simple process. The next step is to copy your music across to your micro sd cards. If you’re lucky enough to own 2 x 200gb micro SD cards then you can use these. I am using a 128gb and 64gb micro SD cards.

So how does the DX80 function. It has 3 screens operated via touch. Now Playing, Library, and Settings.

In the library interface you can select between – Now Playing, All Music,Directory, Artists,Album, Playlist and Genre.

Swiping down from the top in Now Playing you get access to some quick settings – gapless, shuffle modes, USB mode, Digital Filter sharp roll off or slow roll off and Gain High or Low.

Swiping across to the Settings menu gets access to the equaliser, l/r balance, gapless, gain, music info on track playing, USB mode, play mode, Digital Filter, Advanced (languages, display, power management, rescan library, system info, system upgrade, factory reset).

The DX80 also has physical buttons for power off, display off, volume and play/pause and next or previous track. These are really handy to use and one of the aspects that makes using the DX80 a real joy.

Sound Performance and Quality

The user interface is not the most polished but it works fairly well. This is a new device, so based on previous iBasso products will get improved over time. The fit and finish is very distinctive and looks quite chunky in places. But large buttons for the physical music and volume controls do make the DX80 super quick to interact with and skip tracks without looking at the display.

In terms of music playback all 3 headphones I used were driven powerfully with a full range of dynamics and unlike some of my smartphones that simply run out of steam or volume, this won’t happen with the DX80. The DX80 has a decent amount of bass but not OTT at all. If the song has bass the DX80 reproduces it. The performance is full of energy. Playing classical is a joy as there is practically zero hiss at all. In other words a black background. I tried a range of genres to try and trip the DX80. No such luck. I did notice when I had All Music in shuffle mode, that selecting next track ocassionally created a slight audio click but this only occurred during the initial burn in period. Listening to some live jazz was spectacular. Now most of my music is 320mp3 but I did buy a Enya album in FLAC codec from HDTracks. OMFG. Anybody who says FLAC doesn’t sound better is lying unless they have hearing difficulties. However, what I like about the DX80 is its ability to squeeze miracles from MP3 coded songs.

iBasso have included components in the DX80 that are not found until spending 4-8 times more money in other devices. And it shows in terms of audio reproduction. 

Using the DX80 as a Digital Transport Only with the Chord Mojo

The DX80 has the ability to work as a digital transport only. The Chord Mojo is a new Digital to Analogue Convertor that has been receiving very high acclaim from across the world.

  
So connecting the devices together produces a mesmerising sound between the ears. First of all using the Chord Mojo does marginally reduce the bass but its presentation is more airy, spacious and has an incredible musicality and timing. I actually think the musical timing is so stunning that this is what makes the Chord Mojo special. Now I have tried using the Chord Mojo with other devices like an iPhone 6S Plus or Huawei G8 but the DX80 and Chord Mojo produce knock out punches. Using this combo is like rediscovering your albums!

Conclusion

The iBasso DX80 is a fine piece of kit. The user interface is not as cosmetically pleasing as other devices but it works simply enough. Unless previous firmwares add WiFi there is no option to stream music from Tidal and other services. At around £300 for the DX80 is a fantastic Digital Audio Player if sound quality matters. If you want to take it one step further, adding the £399 Chord Mojo takes the musical experience to another level. If you get the chance to demo the iBasso DX80 and Chord Mojo you really will be surprised. Recommended.

PS. A new firmware update has just been announced to be available within a week. I will update my review with details of the changes.

Update – Firmware v1.2 is now out. Changelog is as follows below. Don’t update to this. It’s a bug fest. 

1. Fix the line output bug when the DX80 is used as a USB-DAC.
2. Enable sorting function on Now Playing.
3. Change from file name to title name on All Music view.
4. A more accurate battery indicator on low battery.
5. Improved M3U playlist import function, allows an apostrophe on file name.
6. Improved WAV ID3 support.
7. Allow custom wallpaper be read from either SD card slot.
8. Allow the player to display Hebrew.
9. Scroll bar added to all of My Music views.

Deals on iBasso DX80 24bit/192kHz Digital Audio Player at Amazon UK