Zeppelin & Co. is an audio cafe in Singapore located in one of the most unlikely places – Sim Lim Square. It turns out to be a perfect fit: although Sim Lim Square sells computer stuff, it is a place frequented by tech geeks. And there is also a high chance that audiophiles are geeks as well – audio geeks, that is.
Zeppelin. Audiophile. Cafe.
Zeppelin & Co. is not just another cafe. It specialises in carrying audiophile-grade audio products that are generally not easily available in normal retail outlets. And even if they are, the units may not be open for testing. Zeppelin & Co. is one of the few places in Singapore that you can test some of the most premium DAP, amps and headphones in the world. And they bring in limited quantities, because we all know that audiophile stuffs aren’t mass market goods.
Music Photo Life is privileged to be one of the trusted reviewers that Zeppelin & Co. works with to try out some of the audio products that they carry. I am definitely not an audiophile, but I can appreciate great quality audio products to a certain level of details. I have an audiophile taste but a mass-consumer mindset: what that means is that I am more than happy with consumer-grade audio products but I have the ability to appreciate audiophile products. Many skeptics might think that expensive audio products that claim to sound good are all in the state of mind. In some cases, that could be true, especially when the listening test is done in a time-restricted condition. This is precisely why I rarely give a conclusive verdict on any product based on a brief test.
On the same note, Zeppelin & Co. is not just about catering to audiophile needs, but also to allow ordinary people to experience what audiophiles listen, in a friendly open environment.
The iBasso DX200 is a versatile digital audio player that has interchangeable amplifier modules and a dual 8-channel DAC to achieve elevated audio processing details. It also supports dual operating system: the proprietary Mango OS and the Android 6.0. The DX200 has built in 64GB storage with micro SD slot for up to 256GB, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Dual ESS9028Pro DACs
This may sound technical, but basically, there are two audiophile-grade DACs in the DX200. And each DAC processes 8 independent channels of audio data, totalling 16. You can imagine the amount of details it is capable of tearing the audio file apart to its finest level. And this is how essentially the DX200 sounds: impressive clarity and musical details that do not seem to be clouded even with messy audio passages. Even as you turn up the volume, the treble remains composed and does not sound noisy. The low frequencies similarly delivers the musical details that delight the critical listeners. Overall, the DX200 sounds really vivid, with spacious sound staging to allow aural separation among the instruments without feeling cluttered.
Interchangeable Amplifier Modules
The DX200 is unique with its ability to swap the amp modules. There are a total of eight amplifier cards offered by iBasso, with key differences being alternative terminations 3.5mm and 4.4mm terminations, different power output and different topologies to tweak the DX200 to a sound of your preference. There are loads of literature online about each of the characteristics. The amp that comes with it has both 2.5mm balanced and 3.5mm unbalanced ports. In a nutshell, balanced connection ports deliver better sound quality – clearer, more drive, better instrument separation.
What spoils the experience is really the DX200 UI. The Mango OS is laggy and frustrating to use. It is also limiting in connectivity. So for instance if you want to connect to Wifi, Bluetooth or file transfer, you have to do it from Android OS. Booting to Android is quite easy, but the OS is equally slow. Plus, Google Play app is not available, so you have to side-load the APK installation files. It is very unfortunate that such a brilliant product is marred by its UI.
DX200 does not support USB output to external DAC, like Chord Mojo. I tried to compare both and find that the DX200 is slightly superior in the discipline in delivering treble details. Perhaps the source plays a part too, as I paired the Chord Mojo to the LG G7+ which has a more neutral sound.
The DX200 gets warm during usage, regardless of the file format. In fact, leaving it on without playing any songs still generates heat. It’s probably the electronics at work.
The iBasso DX200 is a versatile DAP and retails at S$1,399 in Singapore. DX200 undoubtedly offers reference-grade audio for the keen-eared, with its attention to musical details and transparency. But the usability is poor no thanks to sluggish UI, which I feel might prevent casual users from picking up one. Even my audiophile peer sold it off in favour of a Sony-brand DAP for a more analog-warm sound signature. That goes to show that it’s not about getting the most technically-superior product, but finding the best fit for your own taste. And one of the best places to go seek your audio soulmate in Singapore is at Zeppelin & Co.
Address: 1 Rochor Canal Road, #02-78 Sim Lim Square, Singapore 188504