In this review, we take a look at the new iBasso AMP8 MK2, a discrete amp module for the iBasso DX240, available for €/$219.
Disclaimer: the iBasso AMP8 MK2 was sent to us, free of charge, by the brand in exchange for our honest opinion.
Founded in Shenzhen, China, iBasso has been producing DAP, DACs, and IEMs for more than 10 years now. With great success at the beginning – lovely DX50/DX90 – some hiccups in the middle – cough cough DX80 – followed by and a surprising comeback, even if a bit too bulky – DX150/DX220.
Then, earlier this year, the brand gave us one of the best players available in the market, at the moment, the iBasso DX300. A TOTL player, sold for half the price of Astell&Kern equivalent and just a tad under the upcoming FiiO M17, that was so good that it earned my recommendation as Headfonia’s top player.
But, just below, iBasso also produced a lovely “little” player named the DX240. A sweet mix between the DX160 and the DX300, with an ESS Sabre chip, insane power, and a design stolen from the DX160.
And today, we are reviewing the AMP8 MK2, an updated version of the discrete amp module, already available for the previous DX220. So real upgrade or simple revamp? Let’s put it to the test, shall we?
Design & Build Quality
Design-wise, there’s not much to say regarding the iBasso AMP8 MK2, hidden in the bowels of your DX240, it’s not designed to win a beauty contest.
Physically identical to the first version, the only visual difference comes from the faceplate. Replacing the sleek, silver one, seen on the previous model, this curved version is more in tune with iBasso latest’s player.
Like every, it is made of two parts: the body itself, which integrates all the circuitry, and the faceplate sporting the single-ended and balanced output. A big difference compared to the first AMP8, which only gave you a 4.4mm Pentaconn output.
Once again, I’ll be quick. Like every product recently released by the brand, the iBasso AMP8 MK2 is absolutely flawless in this regard. Green anodized aluminum, golden plated headphone jack, everything look and feel nice to grasp. The screws are now placed on the bottom, instead of the sides, and once anchored to the main body, everything feels perfectly steady.
It feels less premium than Astell&Kern SE180 modules, which get a screwless design and impressed me with the tighter integration, but the AMP8 MK2 also looks geekier, with full-size caps, directly soldered to the PCB. I like that.
One thing that I’m not too keen on, though, is how “bare” those new modules come. The previous models were fully enclosed in aluminum, while the new ones only come “as is”. It’s no big deal and you’ll never see it since everything is hidden, but now you know.
All in all, it’s a very solid piece of work, and it really gives a good impression once installed.
Surprisingly, the iBasso AMP8 MK2 comes with no less than three faceplates. The idea here is to recycle your old modules – if you already have some – and fit them into your brand new DX240.
A nice gesture from the brand for people like me, that own the full set of the previous generation’s amp module. It’s a simple process, only involving the provided screwdriver and a little bit of tact.
Just unscrew the old faceplate, screw the new one, and the old AMPs should fit your DX260 quite easily.
Comfort and Specifications
The iBasso AMP8 MK2 is extremely simple to use.
You turn down your iBasso DX240, unscrew the previous module, plug the new one, screw it back, and you’re good to go. There were no issues with my DX240, which immediately recognized the new module, and I was able to output some music as soon as I got into Mango player.
As I said, the connection socket is identical to the previous ones, so I’m pretty sure that it could fit the “old” DX220 and DX150, with a proper software update (plus the old faceplate). Sadly, it cannot fit the iBasso DX300, too bad as I’d have been curious to see how the two of them work together, even if iBasso already offers the AMP12 for that.
Good job so far.
This is where things get interesting.
In contrast to the classic amp module, based on IC chips and classic op-amps, the AMP8 MK2 uses discrete components. A process that can give wonderful results, when properly implemented, but which may cause some technical issues for both thermal, and power reasons.
But, iBasso already has good field expertise, thanks to years of making. They developed a full range of modules for the DX150 and DX200 back in time, and I had a blast testing and comparing all of them.
Compared to the default module, the new iBasso AMP8 MK2 promises two main upgrades: higher voltage and higher current output. To do so, they packed low VCE transistors, manually sorted and paired, to provide better consistency and linearity. Then, they increased the buffer current output, by using the same transistors as the AMP11 MK2 – the amp module used on the bigger, beefier DX300. The goal is to drive current hungry headphones, with more ease, helped by the new ERO film capacitors, working in tandem.
Visually, it looks a bit funny, like a DIY project that turned out to be real at the last minute, but the numbers are not one to laugh at. The output voltage remains the same – 3.1 Vrms Single-ended and 6.2 Vrms balanced – but the voltage swing got dramatically increased – +/- 8V – as was the output current, now reaching 2000mA.
I give you the full technical specs just below.
4.4mm headphone out
- Maximum Output Level : 6.2Vrms
- Output Power: 980mW@32ohm / 128mW@300ohm
- Signal to noise ratio: 125dB
- Dynamic Range: 125dB
- THD: -113dB@300ohm / -101dB@32ohm
- Crosstalk: -122dB
- Output Impedance: 0.55ohm
3.5mm headphone out
- Maximum Output Level : 3.1Vrms
- Output Power: 281mW@32ohm / 32mW@300ohm
- Signal to noise ratio: 122dB
- Dynamic Range: 122dB
- THD: -109dB@300ohm / -98dB@32ohm
- Crosstalk: -111dB
- Output Impedance: 0.32ohm
So let’s listen to it now, shall we?
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