(Last Updated On: November 6, 2019)

The release of DC02 dongle offers an affordable solution for audiophiles who need an audio jack and wish to achieve a high-resolution audio quality through their new generation smartphones.

Thank you, Nappoler Hu from HiFiGo for sending me the iBasso DC02. The products were provided to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review and opinion.

Introduction

iBasso is well-known in the audio industry for manufacturing digital audio players (DAP)s and in-ear monitors (IEMs). The DX series of DAPs and IT series of IEMs from this brand are well-received by the audiophile community. I reviewed the iBasso IT01s earlier this year and it is indeed amazing – yielding great resolution with excellent build quality.

A trend that began a few years ago in smartphones was the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack. With this evolution, the demand for a USB dongle has increased drastically. As the demand increases, the quality of these USB dongles has improved as well. Using better materials and design, these adapters can provide noticeably better sound quality. I call them a “smartphone to Hi-Res audio enablement” because I get a higher resolution music quality when using the dongles.

With the demand for USB dongles getting higher, iBasso decided to release the crowd-pleasing DC01 and DC02. Can DC02 transform your phone into a Hi-Res audio production instrument? Let’s find out!

iBasso DC02

"The iBasso DC02 is a great choice for audiophiles who are looking to improve the sound quality of their smartphone at a reasonable price. This could be one of the most affordable options on the market that features a dedicated audio DAC chipset that can decode up to native DSD. Despite the misleadingly small size, the DC02 is able to create an exceptional sonic performance and fulfill your high-quality audio desires."

Pros:

  • »Does not need to be charged
  • »Compact
  • »Classy design

Cons:

  • »Harshness in highs
  • »Could be affected by “dirty” power
 

Unboxing

The packaging of DC02 is relatively simple. The cardboard packaging includes the logo and a photo of the device.

Front view of iBasso DC02 packaging.
Front view of iBasso DC02 packaging.
Rear view of iBasso DC02 packaging.
Rear view of iBasso DC02 packaging.
Removing the outer cardboard sleeve, iBasso DC02 makes its first appearance.
Removing the outer cardboard sleeve, iBasso DC02 makes its first appearance.
User manual is included in the packaging.
User manual is included in the packaging.

Removing the outer sleeve, DC02 makes its first appearance. The box includes:

  • iBasso DC02
  • USB Type-C to Type-A adaptor
  • User manual
Users are advised to read and understand the manual before using the DC02.
These are the items included in the box.
These are the items included in the box.

Technical Specifications

  • DAC Chipset: AKM AK4490EQ
  • THD+N < 0.001% (32 ohms load, 0.9Vrms)
  • Output Voltage: 900 mV (32 ohms load)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz ± 0.5 dB
  • Decoding capability: PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and Native DSD up to 256x

Technology

Every smartphone has a built-in DAC chipset to convert digital files into an analog signal which allows us to hear. Since there is already a built-in DAC chipset, why is there a need to get another DAC? The built-in DAC is not frequently dedicated to music listening. It is multi-purpose; designed to handle actions such as phone calls and video playbacks.

To get high-resolution music playback, we need a specialist. This is where the USB DAC or the USB dongle plays the part. With a dedicated DAC chipset, which is specifically designed for music playback, the USB DAC or dongle will bypass the built-in DAC to process the digital signal.

Design

The DC02 is around 120mm in size. The adapter is promising at such a reasonable price range, staying under USD$100. Both the USB-C connector and main DAC/Amp section are made from aluminum. iBasso also includes a 10-15mm USB-C to USB-A converter for computer use. There is a small LED light that shines blue when it is powered up. This is the indication to users of a successful connection.

Hi-Res Audio Certified DC02
Hi-Res Audio Certified DC02
The USB Type-C to Type A adapter gives users an option to use this as a desktop DAC.
The USB Type-C to Type A adapter gives users an option to use this as a desktop DAC.
There is a small LED beside the audio jack and it lights up when the connection is successful.
There is a small LED beside the audio jack and it lights up when the connection is successful.

iBasso took additional effort in designing the DC series by releasing an application for smartphones. Users can download iBasso UAC from Google Play Store. Users will be able to “finely adjust” sound settings with the 64 step volume control provided by this app, enhancing the listening experience.

iBasso UAC provides a 64 steps volume control for users to fine tune the volume.
iBasso UAC provides a 64 steps volume control for users to fine tune the volume.
With iBasso UAC, users can save the adjusted volume.
With iBasso UAC, users can save the adjusted volume.

Pairing

I paired the iBasso DC02 with my LG G6 and my laptop. It works flawlessly with both devices. My only concern is the noise. I am unsure whether my devices are providing “dirty” power or if my DC02 is faulty, but I am constantly hearing distortions when I listen to my music.

A dirty electrical outlet is one that connects to a noisy electrical supply. When noise frequencies are added, the supply is said to be dirty
DC02 is hooked to my LG G6.
DC02 is hooked to my LG G6.

Sound

iBasso DC02 could be compared to a pre-workout – it provides huge amounts of energy to improve the sonic performance.

The sound signature of this dongle is relatively active. Users can expect a more desirable listening experience and more forward presentation when the dongle is in use. I am especially impressed by its small but powerful design.

The soundstage is above par. The adapter can precisely and accurately produce speaker image, a feature most smartphones are currently incapable of. This is something unachievable by most current stock dongles. In fact, when I travel, I can forgo my DAP and simply use the dongle/smartphone combo as a sufficient replacement.

Before the audio jack on my G6 gave up on me, it was my on the go solution while commuting. Now, iBasso provides an option for me to “revive” my G6 as my mobile solution. When I connect the DC02 to my smartphone, I observe the following EQ qualities.

Lows

With DC02, the performance on lows is like a good massage on the eardrums – comfortable and enjoyable.

DC02 has a tighter and faster bass performance. This can ultimately yield a more precise bass that helps in improving the lows. Besides the attack and decay speed, the depth is improved and the speed is faster. Imagine you are punched by a fast, strong and deep uppercut. Critical. With the bass being tighter, the warmth is less in quantity but I do think DC02 find the sweet spot between overly warm and extremely analytical. Well-balanced!

With this fast and precise performance in lows, the overall fidelity will be improved.
The lows of TFZ No.3 is tightened with the help from DC02.
The lows of TFZ No.3 is tightened with the help from DC02.

Mids

Although the lows are “tight” with the increasing speed of decay and improvement of accuracy, the mids have more space to flex some biceps.

With the DC02 connected to my G6, the mids are more spacious and airy. When the lows attack and decay at a faster speed, there will be more room for the mids to perform. This is what I observed in the DC02.

It is leaning toward the side of analytical from the lack of warmth in the lows. Overly warm mids will create chesty vocals which could come off as unnatural. Overall, this section of the EQ is presented decently but it could be unsuitable for those who like warmer mids.

The mids of Simgot EN700 Pro turns more spacious and airy with DC02.
The mids of Simgot EN700 Pro turns more spacious and airy with DC02.

Highs

This could be the deal-breaker – depending on your preferences.

I find the highs’ performance on DC02 a little unnatural – it doesn’t have the natural touch due to the harshness. If the performance can be “softened” a little, making it easier on the eardrums, I would call it an almost perfect dongle.

Despite being a little harsh, the overall extension in the highs is well presented. It gives a sufficient amount of air and space to the overall sound signature which ultimately improves the sound quality.

The highs are a little harsh on BQEYZ Spring 1 with DC02 hooked on.
The highs are a little harsh on BQEYZ Spring 1 with DC02 hooked on.

Conclusion

The iBasso DC02 is a great choice for audiophiles who are looking to improve the sound quality of their smartphone at a reasonable price. This could be one of the most affordable options on the market that features a dedicated audio DAC chipset that can decode up to native DSD. Despite the misleadingly small size, the DC02 is able to create an exceptional sonic performance and fulfill your high-quality audio desires.

Visit HiFiGo now to grab yours and use the promo code “HEADPHONESTY” to enjoy USD$5 off!

The DC02 retails for USD$59.90. It can be purchased through HiFiGo or Amazon.