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iBasso D4 Mamba review

This headphone amp/DAC combination from iBasso might sound like a great idea, but we found it lacking in key areas Tested at £225

Our Verdict

It's portable enough, but this headphone amp/DAC combo seems to be suffering an identity crisis

For

  • Portable, punchy and weighty sound

Against

  • Cluttered delivery
  • not good enough as a standalone DAC
  • sonically strident

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

It's portable enough, but this headphone amp/DAC combo seems to be suffering an identity crisis

Pros

  • + Portable, punchy and weighty sound

Cons

  • - Cluttered delivery
  • - not good enough as a standalone DAC
  • - sonically strident

At just 21 x 55 x 92mm, the iBasso D4 is tiny. With good reason, too – as well as being a USB DAC, it's also a portable headphone amp.

So, rather than standard stereo RCA for outputting the analogue signal, you get a 3.5mm connection that acts as both aux-in and out, as well as a dedicated headphone output and volume knob.

Meanwhile, the rear plate can be detached to reveal space for a 9V battery, but also has a mini-USB socket.

You can select which of these you use for power by flicking a small switch. If you're using the D4 with a computer, just connect the two via USB, and connect to your amp through that 3.5mm aux output.

The sound is punchier and weightier than with the laptop to the amp directly, lending greater snap and attack to Wild Beasts' All the King's Men.

Cluttered and confused sound

It's not all good news, though, and it doesn't take much of an instrument build-up before the iBasso begins to sound cluttered and confused.

Unfortunately, this messiness is compounded by some hardness to treble and sibilance to vocals. It's actually more successful as a headphone amp, and when combined with an optional ‘dock connector cable' (£26), which connects to the bottom of an iPod, produces a tauter, solid and clean sound than the portable player can manage on its own.

Bass weight improves, although a little untidiness and brightness is still evident.

The problem is that the DAC component of the iBasso just isn't good enough for it to be recommended for this purpose, and if it's simply a headphone amp you're after, you can buy better for the same money.

Sure, it's very portable, but you're probably better spending your cash elsewhere.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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