Disclaimer: Pulling away from Louis C.K. to write about how installing Rockbox turns the DX90 into the mothership of modern DAPs wasn’t exactly a task I tried to skirt, but it did require a bit of a starter. That starter was a Glenfiddich 15, whose nomenclature reads like something I should be reviewing here. Fair enough: several starters in succession and I’ll be ready to pit a banana against the HD800.
God bless it.
But I’ve got to watch myself. Too much Glenfiddich is nearly as bad as too many headphones. Questions are asked. Questions like: “do you need help?”, like “how much did this cost?”, “was that from our savings?” and so on. Hard questions from a lovely creature I normally call hun-hun.
And Glenfiddich disappears considerably faster than does the realistic shelf-life of a good mid-fi DAP like the iBasso DX90. I said mid-fi. That’s the price tag talking. Piss on price tags. They don’t churn up more than what a manufacturer thinks of themselves.
The DX90 is a phenomenal DAP at its price point. It’s got: a great DAC, a good headphone output stage, a high-voltage line output, adjustable gain, a no-questions-asked SPDIF output, decent support for various audio formats, a legible, if awfully designed interface screen; and thanks to the hard work of a few awesome fans, it is now perfectly stable with Rockbox firmware. And can even make the screen of your DX90 look like an iPod (you must install themes designed for the Cowon D2), it costs nothing.
Rockbox is the closest thing we portable audiophiles have to a standard operating system. It runs everything from the popular: 1st and 2nd-gen iPod nanos to the completely obscure: the Olympus M-Robe 500.
It’s got safety features, like fast-dimming volume fade at play/pause out the wazzoo; it supports almost every audiophile format out there*, compressed and not compressed; add to that themes, and restores functionality indispensable to real music lovers that the stock firmware can’t manage.
As this is Nathan speaking, that functionality is gapless playback. Fans and supports of the DX90 are divided: stock DX90 does gapless say one group; no it does not say another group. The truth is that it does not properly support gapless playback. If you think it does, you either jump through .cue sheet hoops to make it work, or you do not have real, gapless music in your library. The stock firmware hiccups for about half a second between files, which, as ridiculous as that is in 2015, is far better than the average non-Apple player.
And yes, installing Rockbox in order to get gapless files to work is a chore. And if the simple act of listening to an album as it was intended to be played back takes that much work, I question the utility of the modern ‘audiophile’ player to the discerning music lover.
And yes, if you call yourself a music lover and gaps don’t bother you, it’s time to quit this review. Because I’m all up in your face. Gaps are ruinous to everything from trance to classical to concert tapes to low-riding jeans. If all your hooting and hollering about SQ doesn’t for a moment take into account the gaps that unplug you from your music, you are probably more of a gearhead than you are a music lover. Enjoy your Top 40 singles.
Whatever floats you boat.
It goes on after the click