USB-C Headphone Adapters: iBasso vs Apple vs Razer THX
iBasso DC02 vs Apple USB-C Adapter vs Razer THX USB-C Adapter
Today, I will be taking a look at three USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapters made by iBasso, Apple, and Razer. With many phones removing the 3.5mm headphone jack, the popularity of the USB-C headphone adapters have grown in popularity due to necessity more than anything. While some phones still have the headphone jack, most flagship devices have removed it for several years now.
I personally have gotten used to life without the 3.5mm jack in my phone, using a combination of a Bluetooth amp/dac adapter, a separate digital audio player, and least likely, the USB-C adapters. That said, I am not reviewing them.
First off, the iBasso DC-02 was provided free of charge to me by HifiGo Audio store. The Apple USB-C and Razer THX adapters were purchased by myself over the past couple years. The Apple one is a more recent purchase and it’s nice to see Apple switching over to the more universally acceptable I/O format.
On paper, the Apple and Razer devices are very limited in what their capabilities are. The iBasso does publish a lot of specs online and it looks rather impressive for a small adapter. It features the AKM 4490 DAC and plays native DSD files. So let’s take a look at how they compare, subjectively.
All of my testing was performed using a Samsung Galaxy S10e mobile phone, which ironically has a 3.5mm headphone jack. I tested the devices on the Sennheiser HD600 over-ears headphone, and the qdc Anole VX in-ear monitors.
Right off the bat, the Apple USB-C adapter seems limited by Android. I don’t know the real reason behind this but it’s been noted by others that power output is contained. This is quite true, as maxing out the Apple USB-C adapter on my Sennheiser gets it to just about the listening volume that is slightly lower than what I like to use, but with no additional headroom at all.
With both the Razer and iBasso, volume can get very loud on the Sennheiser HD600 without a problem. The iBasso adapter is a small, tiny, bit louder, but it’s a close race.
Sennheiser HD600 and “Dreams”
The Apple C adapter wasn’t a fair match when using the HD600 here since I could not volume match the two.
Now to compare the two others, the DC02 and the Razer THX, with the Sennheiser HD600, please note that I am going to be exaggerating slightly to show off the main differences in sound. It is very, very, very, very, very subtle. Very. And for many who don’t critically listen to music, you probably won’t even hear any audible differences in normal listening.
I feel like the iBasso DC02 has just a slightly brighter and airy sound than the Razer THX. It also has a small amount more resolution and detail retrieval. I hear this when I listen to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. This is a song where I’ve listened to thousands and thousands of times, and is a standard for my headphone listening and reviews, since it has a variety of instruments and each playing in a rhythmic fashion on and stand out on their own. Stevie Nick’s voice is also slightly strained and has a lot of vibrato to it (that sheep “baaah” sound of the 70s and 80s) which allows me to hear very subtle differences in products.
With the DC02, I found that each hit of the drum had a small amount more impact and natural decay. The cymbals had just a small amount of splash to it but sounded clean and correct, and Nick’s voice had a little more depth and distinction to it. Again, this is on the Sennheiser HD600 and very strenuous amounts of A-B testing listening at very certain notes and details of the song.
Anole VX and “The Chain”
The qdc Anole VX is a much more sensitive in-ear monitor than the HD600 over-ear. This allowed the Apple USB-C Adapter to battle it out but on Android, again, it sounded quite limited. It got loud enough, but it just didn’t sound quite as clean, distinct and fun as the other two. The attack seemed blunted and strings in The Chain’s intro seemed to be missing a little big of the zing and texture I would expect when pairing it with a detail monster such as the VX.
The differences between the iBasso DC02 and the Razer THX were very negligible on this pairing with the VX. Both sounded excellent with the Anole VX, and while I found the DC02 to have a very slight edge on the depth and detail resolution, it was extremely subtle and mostly negligible and maybe attributed to short term memory optics switching adapters and cables.
The DC02 does seem in general to provide a slight amount more power and detail resolution, but it is also 10X the price of the hampered Apple adapter and 3.5X the price of the Razer. For Apple users or Windows 10 users, the Apple USB-C adapter kills it for price to performance, but for the more pure of audiophile nerds, the iBasso product does seem to best it out. There is also a DC01 product which is an exclusive 2.5mm balanced version with dual amps to consider as well.