iBasso DC06 USB DAC-AMP Review

iBasso’s latest USB DAC-AMP features Dual ES9219C DAC chips from ESS Sabre Technologies. The ES9219C is a new generation of DAC which has a very good ratio of power consumption to sound performance. The dual DAC architecture, design topology, and high-quality parts have given us iBasso’s latest dongle DAC, the DC06. Let’s dive in deeper.

The DC06 utilizes a synchronous DC-DC converter, low noise charge pump, and LDO to build an independent power supply for the AMP section. This allows the AMP section to work to its full potential, significantly boosting the output power. iBasso DC06 is one of the most powerful USB DAC-AMPs in the market today, with 320mW of output power at 32Ω of load (4.4mm balanced output).

The DC06 is equipped with an NDK femtosecond oscillator. The NDK femtosecond oscillator can effectively reduce phase noise and provide a more accurate clock reference for the DAC.

iBasso DC06 supports both single-ended as well as balanced connections. It houses dual headphone output ports, one single-ended 3.5mm and the second a balanced 4.4mm output.

With a dedicated APP named iBasso UAC, the DC06 achieves 64-step hardware volume control. Windows 10 and Android 5.0 and above support the UAC2.0 protocol by default. However, for compatibility reasons, Android Smartphone manufacturers still use SRC on audio output. When DC06 is connected, the maximum volume is achieved by default, and the software algorithm of the device is used to reduce the volume. The software algorithm can reduce the volume but cannot reduce the noise floor. Therefore, iBasso developed a UAC2.0 volume controller App to achieve 64-step hardware volume control, effectively reducing the noise floor while achieving the targetted audio performance.

LED indicator, four colors indicate four states of the DC06. Red color for standby, blue color for DSD, green color for PCM, and magenta color for MQA.

Magenta color for MQA

The craftsmanship of the DC06 is amazing. You may not see it in the photos but it feels very premium in the hands and looks very handsome with its design, shape, and matt black coating.

Features

  • Two ES9219C Sabre DAC Chips.
  • High-power output.
  • Independent Femtosecond Oscillator.
  • Supports high-resolution PCM and DSD signals.
  • Full 16x MQA decoding.
  • Multi-colour LED indicator.
  • Clean and accurate performance with high SNR and Low Distortion ratings.
  • Dual headphone outputs(3.5mm single-ended+4.4mm balanced).
  • Detachable Type-C connector cable.

Specs

  • PCM signal support: Up to 32-Bit/384kHz.
  • DSD signal support: Native DSD256.
  • MQA signal: 16x unfolding (2X is unfolded by software and 8X is hardware rendering by the DC06).
  • Dimensions: 23mmx50mm.
  • Weight: 23grams.
  • Price: 119$
Output Parameters (4.4mm)
  • THD+N: 0.00035%(600Ω), 0.0005%(32Ω).
  • Output voltage: 3.2Vrms(32Ω), 4Vrms(300Ω).
  • SNR: 123dB.
  • Dynamic Range: 123dB.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-40kHz.
  • Output Impedance: <0.5Ω.
Output Parameters (3.5mm)
  • THD+N: 0.00056%(600Ω), 0.0007%(32Ω).
  • Output voltage: 2Vrms(32Ω).
  • SNR: 120dB.
  • Dynamic Range: 120dB.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-40kHz.
  • Output Impedance: <0.3Ω.

I would like to thank iBasso Audio for providing me with the review sample of the DC06 USB DAC-AMP.

Sound

The iBasso DC06 has a well-balanced sound signature. The sound is clear and crisp with a good level of dynamics, layering, and texture. The bass has pace and timing, the mids have body and breath, and the treble is coherent.

The bass reaches deep, and the decay and quickness of the bass are on a high level. The bassline has more authority than I came to expect from a portable device. It’s deep and well-controlled. Midbass is also very well judged, present and tidy, and doesn’t color the midrange. The midbass is nicely executed with a good definition. It doesn’t get in the way of things too much and stays quite clean. Because of this, all vocals and instruments sound very clean and neutral. Clarity with the natural smoothness and liquid-like character of the midrange. I think the overall bass performance of the DC06 is quite a reference for a wide range of USB DAC-AMPs.

Mids have a good attack and dynamism, together with excellent transparency. The presentation in this area is a bit cold and detail-oriented. The tonality is good and neutral without any coloration. This is an important feature of the new DC06. Sounding reference-like and neutral.

Note weight and dynamics are better than I expected. The DC06 gives you a powerful, vibrant, and full-sounding experience from the beginning. As a result, the overall timbre of instruments gets a weighting with improved solidity, especially for vocals that sound vibrant and richer in their texture.

The treble is sharp, but not overly aggressive with good extension and articulation. It is not overly emphasized either with a clean but not aggressive overtone and very little in the way of distracting upper-mids sharpness. The high notes area is nicely defined with a clear and airy attack and a good timbre. 

Moving on to the soundstage, it’s exceptionally well-developed for a product of this price. All tones have plenty of room to breathe and are arranged in front of a very black background. Pinpointing a source where the sound originated is easy. The sound stage expands very well and is holographic, especially in terms of depth.

Sum-Up

The iBasso DC06 turned out to be beyond my expectations. It’s so powerful and sounds so right which makes you feel like you are using a good DAP instead. I was using a Khadas Tone2 Pro DAC for fully unfolded MQA streaming once, but I started not to like it that much after reviewing some other non-ESS DACs. I like bright-sounding earphones and I also like treble. ESSs have the potential of sounding harsh on the upper mids and treble region if your earphone takes you there. I reviewed at least a dozen and all were like that. The DC06 was the opposite, it knows those limits very well and makes you trust to its sound signature. The DC06 is the most organic-sounding ESS-DAC-based audio gear that I tested so far. And for that, I also think that this is the best-sounding dongle DAC that you can buy for around $100 if you are listening to MQA tracks mostly as I do. Because of its 16x unfolding support and sound signature. For non-MQA users, it’s still one of the best-sounding dongle DACs for the price, obviously.

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