I don't often buy new pieces of equipment for my stereo system, but the nagging feeling was "Is DSF and DSD audio worth the effort and will it sound any different to the high quality audio files that I am used to? ". I'm also reluctant to s...Read morepend money on something that I won't use so much. My previous mp3 player was 16Gb, but the screen was unusable except when taking the time to remember how the menus worked. I still find it frustrating and I've had it for years. Thankfully my car now is able to use this player as a usb stick and index files in a clear and usable manner. Small mp3 player gets chucked in car. (In Cumbria we have many areas with no radio, FM or DAB.
So two issues, usability, so it must have a decent screen and menus that are clear and secondly it must have flexibility so it gets used.
After the simple decision to use AMP3 again, the choices were a Fiio or an IBasso DX80. The DX80 appeared to have excellent specifications so I decided to wait until it was back in stock. With two microSD sockets I can enjoy many flac files.
The device comes in the usual smart box with a protective cover for the chassis and the screen, a burn in cable and little in the way of detailed instructions. Still it does have a quick start guide and thge internet provides a copy of the full manual. Check the firmware, damn it needs an upgrade. I find the upgrade very easy and quick giving me confidence that the IBasso has a reasonably fast processor.
Firstly I plug a microSD card into my computer and throw some files onto the machine. A few issues here as the device seems to struggle to index the files. I discover that it's best to use the artist/album/file structure.
Finally the device is playing files. The menus are good, no very good. Simple to use, but sufficient to get the best out of the player. One swipe for the index of files and the other swipe gives settings. I can't remember which is which either left or right, but going the wrong way is no problem as you can get to the correct screen easily. Intuitive and fool proof for this fool. I decide a purpose designed music player is worth the funds as it just works and you are not constantly filling your phone up with music files. There's a button for on and a quick but not annoying screen saver, Volume buttons that fall straight to your thumb and pause, back and forward on the front panel. I put some DSF files in and the sound is excellent, clear and involving, but not sharp. I realise I need some new headphones for extended listening.
Next I try using the DX80 as a DAC. Turn it on_ settings_ USB settings_DAC and that's it. As soon a s I plug it into my Windows 10 machine it is picked up as the appropriate sound card and it plays really well. This is now my preferred headphone USB DAC. (Driver needs installing, but it is very easy to do) It works straight out of the box into linux with a tweak of phonon. I can't report use with an Apple product.This is a revelation. Great sound and volume control on the DAC with no obvious problems with sound quality. I use Foobar2000 as a player, which is stable and free of gimmicks, but has a comprehensive interface if required.
The only issues are the lack of DSD256 playback. But after listening I won't be going there as the file size is huge and the benefits small in my opinion. The second issue is a strange reluctance to play 24/96 WMA files downloaded from Qubuz. This music is Steven Wilson's excellent remastered Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. I discover that Ian Anderson's voice has a subtlety that comes through clearly and enjoyably. I play the music several times as I battle with the WMA issue, Finally I sort if by changing the files to flac with foobar2000. That takes seconds and it works a treat. The odd thing is that I am still enjoying the Jethro Tull even though I've had a few issues.
In conclusion I can thoroughly recommend the DX80. It is offering several new ways to get into my music collection, so it will be used again and again. Imho mp3 players still have a life even with the smart phone trying to hog the limelight.