Current testing methodology is v1.2
April 27, 2023
Price not available
49.4 x 21 x 8mm
I recently got the iBasso DC03Pro DAC dongle.
If you haven’t heard of the brand yet, iBasso is a company that’s been producing audio products since 2006. It offers portable audio gear, DAC dongles, and earphones that have served many audiophiles around the world.
For a company that’s been around for nearly two decades now, let’s see how their products perform starting with the DC03 dongle.
An excellent DAC dongle for less than $70
The iBasso DC03Pro is a DAC dongle that has a signature that’s analog, organic, and airy. Vocals and performances turn somewhat into live recordings, immersing you endlessly in your music. The sound is balanced, musical, and technical at the same time.
It has a simple design and a rugged build with its chassis made from a solid piece of CNC-machined aluminum alloy plated with tempered glass. It has intuitive features like standby mode that helps save battery life and a companion app from iBasso that provides you with options for digital filters, gain, and output settings.
For someone on the lookout for Cirrus qualities in a dongle with more features than basic barebone single-chip dongles, the iBasso DC03Pro has my full confidence and recommendation.
- DAC: Dual CS43131 Cirrus Logic DAC chips
- THD+N: -111dB (32Ω load), -114dB (300Ω load)
- Output Level: 2Vrms(300Ω), 1.77Vrms(32Ω)
- Frequency response: 20Hz-40kHz
- Noise floor: <0.9u
- SNR: 127dB
- Output impedance: <0.12Ω
- Output Power: 98mW@32Ω
- Supported Decoding: 32-Bit/384kHz PCM and Native DSD256
What’s in the Box?
- iBasso DC03Pro dongle
- USB C Cable
- USB C Adapter
Stuff I like
- Has a physical volume rocker and intuitive LED indicator
- Excellent technicalities
- Has a companion app
- Clean noise floor and no EMI noise
- Call passthrough
Stuff I like less
- Somewhat softer dynamics than ESS counterparts
The iBasso DC03Pro comes in simple and straightforward packaging which is a transparent hard plastic casing that lets you see the unit.
Right off the bat, I can tell that the unit is well-designed. It has a simple and sleek look that makes it seem like a more expensive product even though it only costs around $70.
At first listen, the DC03Pro sounded the same as my ESS dongle, which is the Shanling UA1. I couldn’t pick out what made it different because although they sound somewhat the same, they were also very different because of their components.
I gave myself about two weeks of using the two interchangeably, which is ample time to adjust my ears and eventually, I’ve experienced first-hand the nature of Cirrus Logic chips. They’re somewhat ‘softer’ when it comes to percussion.
Don’t get me wrong – they don’t sound dulled out. It’s just that drums don’t pop out at you like they do on ESS chips. While others may call this ‘boring’, the need for something analog and technically proficient without distracting you now exists – or rather has existed.
It’s surprising how I didn’t pick up on it sooner. In the end, ESS and CS4 chips don’t sound the same to me anymore.
Do I like the sound? Heck, yes. My newfound love for Cirrus Logic has now been sprung up by iBasso’s DC03Pro. I’m afraid it has drawn me towards getting a desktop system with CS4 chips but at this point, I’m already foreshadowing.
The iBasso DC03Pro looks pretty chic. It has a nice design and its chassis is made up of a solid piece of CNC machined aluminum alloy. Its form factor is small and light, which makes it pocket friendly. It’s also detachable which means you can disconnect its USB C cable to make it easier to store.
Overall, my thoughts about the DC03Pro’s design and build are extremely positive. It’s simply a beautiful and well-made dongle for the price.
The iBassso DC03Pro makes use of extra features provided by the brand’s companion app, the iBasso UAC.
The app lets you adjust the dongle’s volume digitally. It also lets you control left and right stereo balance. set gain and output settings. The gain gives you low, medium, and high options, which change how much gain is added to your music – the more you crank it up, the louder the music gets.
The output is simple – you have normal or turbo, which doesn’t provide any audible benefit except for powering more demanding sets. It’s even been reported to power an HD660s effectively and that’s awesome because this thing is 150 ohms.
The app also gives you five digital filters you can experiment with, which I didn’t have the patience to differentiate but hey, go crazy.
I’ve always loved no-fuss plug-and-play setups but I’m really happy with the iBasso app. It keeps things simple and sticks to the essentials.
The iBasso DC03Pro sounds pretty analog. There’s not much coloring in the sound here and everything is replayed very accurately.
At first, I couldn’t tell it apart from the timbre of an ESS chip but as I’ve listened more, I’ve found it to be more life-like and perhaps more natural and graceful in its effort to replay vocals. This margin is small and would require focused testing and comparison to discern. It isn’t the most definitive difference though.
Cirrus Logic chips have been known to be somewhat ‘softer’ when it comes to dynamics. Having learned this, I started to observe and, of course, replay every test track I had over and over. I’ve tried a lot of tracks but I’ve found the most apparent display of this softness was found on metal and rock genres.
“Ascend” by TheDooo sounded a little dampened on its drums. The guitars were okay but sounded a little flat on parts where the guitarist reverse-dive bombs a note. I was anticipating a bit of nuance or something that’ll make me do a ‘guitar face’ as the strings distorted and sang as the whammy bar curled it but the character was just flat.
Don’t get me wrong – this kind of consistency in replaying instruments is great, especially for other genres where dynamics and strings aren’t the focus and forefront. At this point, it might almost sound like I’m picking on the DC03Pro but in actuality, I’m just getting my findings out.
To be fair, that level of nuance is often just lost on casual listeners and only very particular folk like me even bother to quantify what little differences they hear.
Now you’ve heard the objective part, I will now proceed to gush over why this thing is amazing.
Due to its very appealing timbre, the iBasso DC03Pro does vocals incredibly well as voices are articulated sweetly and with appropriate character and breath.
Listening to “With You” by NNAVY made me feel like I was on the tenth seat to a live performance. It’s cliché to say but it really felt like I was there. “Highschool in Jakarta” by NIKI was equally as emotional and the normal passages I’ve memorized by now sounded more involving and filled with charm.
I couldn’t be happier listening to the vocals. Timbre is something that’s overlooked too often but for people who appreciate organic and natural performances, it’s everything.
Unlike many dongles that boost technicalities a tad too much and make everything sharper, the iBasso DC03 Pro manages to somehow throw you into the performance itself. It involves you in the music, making you feel as if you’re in a theater, and tells you to stay and listen as long as you want to.
The iBasso DC03Pro is very well-rounded and proficient in many technical areas.
Compared to a relatively old ESS dongle like the Shanling UA1, its resolution and detail retrieval are audibly superior. The instrument separation is excellent and allows proper layering to occur. The vocals just sound majestic and the imaging is on point, helping the rather soft transient response.
I do think that, while stick attacks are less tactile, impact and presence remain faithful. Unless you try it on every IEM you own, you’re not going to instantly pick up on it. It’s very minute but still discernible.
Expanding on the imaging qualities, they’re very accurate and can fire up rock and metal tracks with vigor and drive. The sound field is open and spacious while the staging is done very gracefully, allowing performances to sound very natural and organic.
I think this dongle does well with just about any IEM but if you have an overzealous set that’s too energetic for its own good, the iBass DC03Pro will be perfect. It provides that little nudge to just let vocals shine their best, which is why I call it “the eloquent vocalist”.
Of course, it does this without detriment to the whole presentation and it’s not like it dulls out transient hits and plunges them into oblivion – it just makes them a little milder.
The iBasso DC03Pro has an attractive position at its price point. It’s built well, has a lot of intuitive and useful features, and is technically proficient. The only downside anyone could maybe throw at it is its lack of any balanced ports but hey, that’s basically what the DC04Pro is for.
For newbies or someone looking to get a little taste of the Cirrus flavor, the iBasso DC03Pro is difficult not to recommend, especially at its price point.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2023-11-28 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.