Fiio E7, Meet Your Rival: The Ibasso D-Zero

ibasso_dzero_01
Headphone Pairings

With gain level set at low, I was truly floored at how well the D-Zero pairs with my JH5Pro. Both the JH5 and the D-Zero excel at reproducing a black soundstage blackground and the combination is just phenomenal. An almost 180 degrees soundstage where each instruments are very clearly distinct.

I tried the D-Zero with a few of the full size headphones like the Beyerdynamic T1, the Sennheiser HD800, and the Hifiman HE-500. While the D-Zero can drive them to good loudness levels, I don’t think the music was happening with the big full size headphones. The amplifier sound like it’s constricted and running out of breath. Definitely not recommended. With portable headphones like the Sennheiser HD25-1, the Sony MDR-7506, the Beyerdynamic DT1350, and the Superlux HD661, things are sounding very good. A lot of these portable headphones can use a little boost in soundstage width and a blacker background, and the D-Zero gives precisely that, and with a good low bass kick as well, though I am not particularly fond of the DT1350 and D-Zero combination. Upper mids seem to dominate the whole presentation, and I just can’t enjoy it. The D-Zero and HD25-1 combination was particularly noteworthy as the two just pair very well.

Aux In/Out

The D-Zero comes in with a very handy Aux In/Out feature meaning you can send line out signals into the D-Zero (hence it’ll function as a portable amp) or send line out signal out from it (hence the D-Zero is used as a pure DAC).

I was actually surprised to find how good the D-Zero sound when driven directly to the Ipod. Background is not as black as if I were using the internal D-Zero DAC, but boy that midrange body I long for is finally here. Bass remains as impactful and even fuller sounding, though losing a little articulation points. Pretty amazing indeed. I wonder if Ibasso can tune the WM8740 based DAC to sound a little fuller in the mids like what I’m hearing through my Ipod Classic’s internal DAC.

Sending the signal out from the D-Zero out to say a Fiio E11 portable amp merely changes the tonal balance while muddying the signal and adding noise into the equation. Again, I like the fuller mids from the E11, and bassheads would also appreciate the two level bass-boost on the E11, but overall you lose quite a bit of that black background and the “well-organized” sound I was talking about earlier.

End Words

I am pretty amazed at how much portable hi-fi has progressed. Likewise, the quality of entry level USB DACs. It used to be that the Audinst HUD-MX1 was THE ONE portable USB DAC I would recommend to people. And although the Audinst is still ahead in terms of overall DAC performance, the point is that you now have more choice with either the D-Zero and the E10, both offering solid performance at cheaper price points. The D-Zero even add two added points over the E10: a thinner enclosure that work better when you’re pairing it with an Ipod (using the D-Zero as an amplifier), and battery powered operation (as a portable amplifier). On the other hand the E10 would give you 24/96 USB capabilities while the D-Zero is stuck at 16/48.1. How important is a 24/96 capability for an entry level gear? Suprisingly I can clearly pick up the difference that 24/96 gives me even with relatively low mid-fi gear like the E10 and say a Sennheiser HD25-1 and so for me, being stuck in 16/48.1 is sort of a “if only it does 24/96″ kind of thing. But certainly doesn’t get in the way of me recommending it, if the product is good.

If you’ve read my previous articles, you may have read before that I wasn’t too impressed at the previous USB DAC/portable amp efforts by Ibasso (i.e D3, D4, D10). I know that the D-Zero is a lower end product compared to those, but frankly as an overall product, I think the D-Zero is far more mature than the D3, D4, and D10 was. Perhaps it’s the experience Ibasso has gained over the time. I was constantly annoyed at how dry and brittle things sound on the earlier D3/D10 (the D4 was smoother and much better), but the D-Zero just gives me a one-package that combines a solid designed product and with an enjoyable sound too. Indeed the midrange is not as full as what I would’ve liked, but the black-background performance is really enjoyable on its own and that’s something that I don’t get from the Fiio E11.

One last thing before I finish the article. The D-Zero sounded congested, muddy, and unrefined fresh out of the box. I really couldn’t enjoy it when I first gotten it. But roughly 3 hours later and most of that nasty sound is gone, and by the 6 hours mark, I’m already getting all of the smooth and clean black-background sound I’m raving about in this article. And the way the D-Zero sounds now, I wouldn’t hesitate a bit to recommend it to Headfonia readers.

Isn’t it a great time to be a headphone user these days? Thanks to Munkong Gadget for the Ibasso D-Zero loaner.

 

ibasso_dzero_05 ibasso_dzero_04 ibasso_dzero_03 ibasso_dzero_02 ibasso_dzero_01

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • H-Man

    Hello Mike. Thanks for another great portable amp review. I notice that you mentioned that the D-Zero are not too great with a DT1350. I was hoping to get some advice on an amp for the DT1350. I’m somewhat stuck in the middle between the Cmoy and the Audinst Amp-Hp. I want the bass response of the Audinist Amp-HP but at the same time the soundstage of the CMoy. Is there no amp which gives me the two and works great with the DT1350? Any help would be greatly appreciated. kindest regards. H-Man

    • Anonymous

      Yea, it would be difficult to get the Cmoy soundstage and Audinst AMP-HP bass in one package.
      The D-Zero actually has good soundstage and good bass.. I just couldn’t get through the midrange part of that combination. What do you think? If that doesn’t seem like an issue to you then the D-Zero is actually a very good amp.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-James/547035822 Joshua James

    If only the E10 had this form factor… The E10 is kinda chunky and putting me off a little, but i like bass heavy music like house and dance music… which would you recommend over the other, the E10 or the D-Zero?

    • Anonymous

      For house and dance, go with the D-Zero. I think the bass is punchier and works better for those music, though the E10 would be pretty good for them too.

  • C-LOS

    Hey mike so the D- zero pairs great with the HD25-1 ,compared to the JDSLABS comoy  which one do u think is better for Rock/hipHop/Modern classical/ambient.
    Appreciate your honest opinion

  • TrH

    Hey mike – with the recent reviews of the d-zero, audinst, e-10, etc, what would you recommend for a pair of grado 325s in the sub-$200 range?
    Btw – would you consider doing a multi-unit comparison in the future? Thanks for all your work

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      You’re welcome.

      The new Fiio E17 should be good for your Grado. The bass is very punchy, and it should go very well with the Grado’s character. You can also look into the new JDSLabs C421 amp. The character should be good for your Grado (ask for OPA2227), but it doesn’t have a DAC so you need to add a separate DAC.

  • Scottie

    I have a different question regarding the D-Zero.  Does anyone know of a way to charge it using a USB wall wart of some kind?  I tried both an apple iPod wall wart and a BlackBerry 9900 wall wart and neither will get the charging LED to light up. Most of the time charging via a computer is fine, but if I’m on a short vacation and don’t want to pack my laptop, I’d like to be able to throw a wall wart and USB cable in my bag.  Does anyone know of a wall wart that works on the D-Zero?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I charge the D-Zero from the computer’s USB all the time, I think it works fine.

      • Scottie

        Oh yeah no I get that, it charges great from a computer’s USB.  But there are times when I won’t have my laptop handy and would like to be able to charge it from a little wall wart and usb cable.  Does anyone know of a wall wart that works to charge the D-Zero?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Scottie,
          I think most USB chargers should work. They all have the same 5V output voltage.

  • Baud

    Hello Mike,
    I would like to buy an AKG K271 MKII.
    Is it a good amp (iBasso D-Zero) for this can and to have more bass ?
    I have an ipod classic 4th.
    Thanks a lot.
    Best Regards.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Baud, 
      I haven’t tried the K271 Mk2 with the D-Zero. Have you listened to the K271 yet? If you want more bass perhaps try the Fiio E11 as it comes with a bass boost. 

      http://www.headfonia.com/fiio-e11-portable-amplifier/

      • Hyper Mus1c

        Thanks a lot for your reply.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Sorry couldn’t give much help there. 

  • ZIJIE POH

    Hi Mike, I read this review and bought a D-Zero. I really like it.

    I am planning to get another one. So, could you compare a little on D-Zero, cMoy, and E17?

    My gear is JH5 with iPod Classic. I frequently listen to Classical, Vocal, C-pop, and K-pop.

    Thanks for your input. I really appreciate it.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Zijie,
      You can read the comparison between the D-Zero and the E17 on the E17 review: http://www.headfonia.com/the-upgrade-fiio-e17-alpen/

      As for the Cmoy, the amp is smoother and more spacious than the D-Zero, but the bass impact is softer than the D-Zero.

  • David Naranjo

    Hi MIke,

    Thanks for sharing a great and informative review! Do you know if there’s an affordable DAC that will bypass the DAC on the iPhone? I’ve only heard of the expensive ones like Fostex and Cyber Labs.

    I should be receiving my D-Zero tonight; I’ll be using my iPhone 4S>D-Zero>B&W P5s.

    Thanks,
    David

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Unfortunately no, David. Only the Fostex and Cypher Labs for now.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        Too bad, maybe we can convince JDSLabs to make one ;-)

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I still want him to build a tube amp first. Good idea, no? ;)

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

             Improved Crack? ;)

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              More like the Cmoy-equivalent of a tube amp: the SSMH (Starving Student Millet Hybrid)
              I think it would be awesome if they can make finished build versions.

          • Mutnat

             My vote is with the JDSLabs iPod DAC, please! A D421 in C421 housing to complement the awesome amp.  Now *that* would rule!!!

      • David Naranjo

        Would using an iPod 5G (Wolfson WM8758) sound any better with the iBasso Audio D-Zero and a decent pair of cans? I was considering the VentureCraft Go-Dap, although I have not found a decent review yet.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Well yes the DZero would improve the amplifier section.

          • David Naranjo

            I just received the D-Zero and my first impressions are good! Is there a long burn-in period for D-Zero?

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              I would do 12 hours max.

  • David Naranjo

    Has anyone tried the D-Zero with an HRT iStreamer or Cypherlabs Solo?

    • Mutnat

      Since the amp section of the D-Zero isnt great, it seems a waste to use it as an amp only, bypassing the built-in DAC to uuse a solo or iStreamer. If you want to use a dedicated DAC like those, then buy a nicer dedicated amp to go with it. Maybe something like a C421?

      • David Naranjo

        I know that it’s an entry level DAC/Amp; however, what don’t you like about it?

        Any thoughts Mike?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Basically not using the Ibasso D’zero’s DAC, I think you’ll be better off with the C421.

          • David Naranjo

            For a mobile setup, iPod > CLAS > C421 a better setup rather than using the D-Zero? I figured most people would use ALO or Ray Samuels…

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Yes the C421 would be better than the D-Zero.

              The ALO and the RSA amps are good, just more expensive.

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        Yes that’s a suggestion I agree with.

        • Mutnat

          It’s not that the D-Zero is a ‘bad’ amp.  Attached via an LOD, it does a reasonable job as a headphone amp for an iDevice.  However, if you are spending $580 on an external DAC (the CLAS), you are not doing it justice by amping it with theD-Zero. IMHO.  Likewise, if you were using some very basic headphones like the Apple earbuds or some $20 cans.  Remember that the system will only sound as good as the weakest component. 

          • David Naranjo

            Kool, thanks for your input!

        • Mutnat

          Forgot to mention… yes most people use an Rx mkII, a Continental, or a Ray Samuels as you said.  Any of those would bevery good with the CLAS.  At a cheaper price point, the National or C421 would work reasonably well, better than a D0, E17, etc.

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            Again, totally agree with Mutnat.

        • David Naranjo

          Ok, thanks Mike!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Like Ipod > CLAS > D-Zero you mean?

  • Rey

    Hi Mike, i’m using iPod 5th gen and IEM Sunrise SW Xcape V.1 right now. Already sold my Martini+ and in the need of portable amp for vocals-oriented music, classic, jazz, blues and some hard-rocks. Will this D-Zero satisfy my needs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/aztoi.ozalan Azizul Rosli

    hi mike, i have a crossroads hr1 amp, do this ibasso do justice to it? its a laid back amp or how? anyways is the dac part worth even its entry lvl?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Crossroads HR1 Amp? Sorry I don’t understand the question. You have a crossroads HR1 amp and you want to plug this ibasso to it?

      • http://www.facebook.com/aztoi.ozalan Azizul Rosli

        oh my bad i mean i have the crossroads hr1 earbuds, which is 150ohm, and will it do justice to it by using it with this ibasso, any one more question is this , just the dac part of it will or could be beneficial to my soon travagans 3″ speakers, or should i opt for the audnist mx amp which u had reviewed for my hr1 earbuds along with my speakers(use only dac)

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Okay one by one.

          For the HR1, I would get something like the Cmoy or the C421.

          The DAC, currently the cheapest DAC in my recommendations list is the HRT MS2.

          http://www.headfonia.com/source-recommendations/

          • http://www.facebook.com/aztoi.ozalan Azizul Rosli

            oic, if i were to buy or use the audinist mx1 , will it be able to power up the speakers as well? or just have to use d dac part, and a seperate maybe t-amp,.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Azizul,
              You have to buy a separate amp for your speakers.

  • Jim Moret

    Mike
    Thanks so much for your review.
    Could I use the D-zero with an iPad 3 + CCK to enable me to use Aiaiai tma-1 headphones and employ the DAC on the iBasso? Would this set up give me an improved sound over the ipad 3 alone with headphones?
    Thanks for your time
    Jim

    • http://twitter.com/davidsdiego David Naranjo

      I know you are waiting for a response from Mike, although I had the same question months ago; Mike and iBasso Audio answered it for me.

      Unfortunately, you cannot bypass the DAC on the new iPad with the iBasso Audio D-Zero. Only the expensive Amp/DAC or DACs can do that. The D-Zero’s DAC is only utilized, via USB, on a computer.

      I hope this helps!

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        Thanks for answering for me, DAvid.

        • http://twitter.com/davidsdiego David Naranjo

          You’re welcome! You are the true audiophile! :)

  • Pingback: Ibasso D Zero DAC/AMP, Audio Technica CKM500is()

  • Nirmaljit Akham

    hello mike ,
    first off all thank you for giving the exact info i was looking for

    if i use D-zero with an android tablet with usb port activating the DAC part and then use the amp, is that possible?
    if yes will it best portable amp for the price range?
    going to use it with ath m35 & ath t500.listening to vocals mostly

    • http://twitter.com/davidsdiego David N.

      I know you are waiting for a response from Mike, although I had the same question months ago; Mike and iBasso Audio answered it for me. Unfortunately, you cannot bypass the DAC on an Android tablet with the iBasso Audio D-Zero. Only the expensive Amp/DAC or DACs can do that. The D-Zero’s DAC is only utilized, via USB, on a computer. I hope this helps!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sorry I haven’t tried that function with the dzero. I can’t tell you if it would work.

  • Synyster Jasnizam Paget

    Is this headphones good for my shure srh940?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      DACs you mean? Yes.

      • Synyster Jasnizam Paget

        sorry typo huhu..ok i need to make a decision between e07k or ibasso d-zero..btw what dac those two using anyway?

  • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

    I just got my hands on this and I have to agree with Mike on the sound part. I love using it with my custom in Ears from Cosmic Ears (BA4)

  • riodgarp

    sorry if its sounds silly, but I wanna search for a dap that will suitable to be paired with d-zero. ( bright or neutral sq maybe? ) among some dap that already tested on this site . . . and how long is approximately to charge d-zero ?