iBasso DC05 Review

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Sound performances

For this review, I chose to pair the iBasso DC05 with the FiiO FD3. These IEMs have been my top choice in this price range since their launch now, and they’ve been in my bag for a few months now.

And for the source, I kept my MacBook and iPhone, combined with the ddHiFi TC28i + DC05. For the files, I mainly used Apple Music and Spotify, as I ended up using the DC05 almost exclusively on the go, or in the train.

Overall signature

So, is this new version better than the previous one? In a nutshell, yes… but some might prefer the DC01 over the DC05. Let me explain.

Out of the box, the DC05 immediately surprised me by its dynamic range. On paper, the difference is insignificant, but once connected to my FiiO FD3, the improvement is really striking. This was especially true with massive, orchestral, tracks like Dunkirk OST, where some effects seemed to popup right into my face, as opposed to the DC01 which appeared toned down by comparison.

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Head to head against the previous model, the DAC also showed some major tonal differences, especially on the high-mids. While the DC01 sounded “velvet” – hello AKM – the DC05 is focused on details, almost like a magnifier, which is, to be honest, more in tune with my personal taste. 

I really like my DC01, but the iBasso DC05 is a real step-up above. Voices are sharper, sound stage is wider, and when you crank up the volume, I never heard any distortion even with big cans. Obviously, don’t expect this device to replace something like the EarMen Sparrow or the AudioQuest Cobalt in terms of raw power. 

As promised in the product sheet, the DC05 absolutely dead silent, even with super sensitive IEMs like my Onkyo IE-C3 or the FiiO FA9. To be sure, I tried various sources to check if EMI shielding was okay too and 90% of the time, I was pleased to hear the same pitch-black background. The only time I heard some parasites, was when my phone had to catch up with the old edge bandwidth, but that only occurred once. 

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The sound stage is better, wider, and up to low, there are no real caveats. Compared to Apple’s infamous lightning dongle, the improvement is even crueler. Even more, if you feed this DAC with high-rate files like Tidal, Qobuz, or Apple Music, where you’ll definitely feel the difference.

Out of curiosity, I plugged my Audeze LCD-X and the DC05 was able to push the drivers far beyond what I expected. It’s not deafening loud, but compared to the TC35i for example, you really hear the improvement, making me even more curious to try the TC35 Pro.

All in all, a very good dongle DAC, especially in this price range. 

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Tonality

Highs: clean and sharp. The iBasso DC05 offers a very good level of resolution and scales up easily with Hi-Res files. There is a good level of air combined with low distortion, even at high volume, and through all my listening, I could feel the usual Sabre touch, especially compared to the AKM DAC, previously found in the DC01.

Good test track : Through and through – Leaving Laurel

Mids: open and linear. Vocals and acoustic tracks were and an easy job for the DC05, even more once paired with a good IEM. The sound stage is wide and voices glided easily into my ears, especially paired with the FiiO FD3, as the two devices seemed to pair really, really, well.

Good test track: Between a smile and a tear

Lows: deep and fast. The DC05 didn’t struggle to reach the lowest notes and sub rumble, with the FD3. It’s not amazingly powerful, and I had the sensation that some sensations were missing, but paired with the right headphone/IEM, you should get enough lows to meet your needs. Hurray

Good test track: Orbit – Rezz

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Conclusion

The iBasso DC05 is a good little DAC, capable of great lengths once paired with a good IEM, or portable headset. Sound quality is surprisingly good, as is the build quality, and the conception design makes it the perfect companion for your smartphone – even if iPhone users still have to get an adapter like the ddHiFi TC28i.

It won’t replace your Dragonfly, Sparrow or Hi-mDAC, but, if you want a cheap/sturdy solution, that allows you to use your hi-res streaming subscription, and makes a real difference on the long run, this is a very serious option. I liked it!

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

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