iBasso’s IT01 earphones retail for a penny shy of £90 and are the yin to the iBasso DX200 digital audio player’s yang. The DX200 DAP, when combined with the IT01, makes an impressive combination. However, as groovy as the DX200/IT01 combo is, the IT01 earphones deserve consideration in their own right. Whether or not you might be stretching out to own the upper end £750 DX200 DAP, iBasso intends the IT01 to make its own splash in the already crowded world of sub-£100 earphones.
The IT01 features a 10mm dynamic driver system developed in-house by the iBasso team that pulls together three key technologies. The first of these involves the IT01’s multi-layer driver diaphragm, which iBasso forms from ultra-thin 5μm sheets of carbon graphene material that, at a microscopic level, are significantly stronger than steel. The extreme thinness and strength of the diaphragm frees the IT01 driver from the need to be mechanically damped. Relying instead on air damping alone, the iBasso dynamic driver produces extremely low distortion. The second key technology involves the driver motor’s extremely strong customised magnets that are said to approach 1 Tesla of magnetic flux—an impressive figure of merit in any headphone, but especially so in such a compact driver assembly. The third key driver technology involves dual Helmholtz resonators into which the drivers are loaded. These unique dual resonator units operate as a series of cylindrical neck and cavity connections and were designed to prohibit unwanted standing sound waves and thus produce a clearer and more full-bodied sound.
The IT01s can be purchased in bright blue-and-red, or in all black, and they come complete with a wide array of flexible ear tips giving you several options to find a comfortable and air tight seal in your ear canals. A visually striking feature of the IT01s is a handmade braided four-wire OFC cable, complete with MMCX earphone connectors. This handsome cable looks and feels like a high-quality speaker cable and has the added benefit of being designed to reduce any annoying microphonic transmittal of sound. I found that the IT01s were initially a bit tricky to learn how to set in my ears so as to develop the proper seal, but once I got the hang of it they proved to be a very comfortable earphone that quickly let me forget about their physical presence.
During listening tests, the IT01s continually surprised by opening up space in the music. The treble and bass were well proportioned in relation to a spacious and detailed—albeit slightly forward—midrange. Regardless of what was playing the IT01s seemed to continually flout the convention that a sub-£200 earphone has to settle for a pent-up and congested sound. Apollo Sunshine’s crown jewel ‘Phyliss’ from their eponymous debut album [spinART] is a sonic tour de force that shows what the IT01 can do. The IT01s helped convey the artist’s intentions by accurately allowing the track’s tempo to tell a story, starting with a painfully slow bass line and then building to a runaway freight train of fuzz guitar that concludes the piece like a bomb exploding. Apollo Sunshine’s crescendo of chaos can absolutely bury a weak earphone that cannot precisely organise sound, but the IT01 was able to keep the complex wall of sound breathing and open in a manner on a par with earphones in far higher price classes.