Back in May we introduced you to iBasso's D2. To many people, it's an external USB soundcard; to others it's a DAC (digital to analogue converter). And to some, it's just a great headphone amp. In fact, it's all three. It transforms music played from any computer, from weedy and flat to rich and explosive.
The iBasso D10 extends this functionality to Apple's AirPort Express, or any other audio device that outputs digital audio via optical or coaxial cables.
Erm, do I need a DAC?
There are many reasons you might, but not everyone needs one. If you've spent a decent amount on a pair of headphones (generally upwards of about £150 or so) or a hi-fi linked to a computer, you should definitely consider one to get the most from your money.
So why this one? You know it costs as much as a netbook, right?
Of course. The D10 offers the same stunning sound-quality of the D2, which when used as a MacBook's sound processor via USB, deepened and smoothed out the bass, extended and opened up the high-end, and gave vocals a noticeably richer, more vibrant tone. In fact, the same chip that converts audio from binary data to audible music, is the chip high-end hi-fi manufacturer Arcam uses in its leading CD players and Solo Mini.
But there's a bonus with the D10: using a digital optical (mini-Toslink to Toslink) cable, you can use the D10 to offload the audio processing from Apple's AirPort Express. Using lossless audio, this will give you wireless streaming of music from your Mac or PC, with bit-for-bit accuracy from original CD to your speakers, with the audio quality of iBasso's Wolfson WM8740-powered DAC. In fact, that's mostly what we've been using it for.
I'm interested, but this still seems expensive for what it is. Is it, honestly?
At £275 from hifiheadphones.co.uk, the D10 is a choice for purists, yes. But being small, portable and with a 30-hour internal battery for portable amplification, it represents decent value for money compared to, say, Cambridge Audio's widely respected but less feature-rich DacMagic, which goes for around £230.
Unless you need the optical or coaxial inputs, however, we advise you opt for the iBasso D2, which sells for £165 and offers identical audio performance with a PC or Mac. If you missed our review, check it out here.
We'll soon examine the best way to use the D10 -- and indeed other DACs -- with a PC, Mac and the AirPort Express. Be sure to check back.
Until then, check out the next few pages for photographs and comparisons of the D10's physical attributes. If you're already excited, go and have a cold shower, as these photos may push you over the edge -- it's beautiful.