iBasso Amp8MK2S Special Edition Amp Review

The AMP8 MK2S is a new special edition amp module version of their AMP8 MK2 that was released as an optional add-on to their DX240 digital audio player. The AMP8 MK2S is available directly from iBasso and I purchased it for $219, plus DHL Express shipping after its release. It arrived within a couple days to my home in the US.

The AMP8 MK2S features the same 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended outputs as the original AMP8 MK2. What is different is that many of components have been changed out with parts that resemble what they used on the very limited run of AMP3 Mod module that was given away from iBasso's Facebook page earlier in 2022. Specifically, it is tuned with a Sprague axial capacitor, a WIMA film capacitor, and ELNA Silmic2 electrolytic capacitors.

The output power remains the same between the original MK2 and the MK2S. With balanced output, the spec sheet states it outputs 980mW at 32 ohms, and 281mW at 32 ohms for 3.5mm single-ended.

Visually, the two products look identical from the outside. iBasso did not mark the AMP8 MK2 branding with the "S", so if you happen to just look at an already installed module, you would not know if it were the special edition or the original. It's also not labeled differently on the PCB either. 

It is however, easily distinguishable when you look at the components when the modules are not installed, as the Special Edition version has a more colorful array of capacitors with a large bright red in the back and an orange capacitor down the center of the board, and two black capacitors replacing two white ones on the original, and are also placed in a different orientation on the board.

In terms of battery usage, I have not noticed any significant differences in power consumption between the two versions, and am generally happy with the battery life on it, given that it is running on Android.

Sound Impressions

I primarily used 4.4mm output on this amp, and my comparisons were primarily with a variety of different IEMs. The general distinguishments between the MK2 and MK2S are pretty straightforward though, so I won't get into a great amount of detail.

I found the MK2S to be an improved sound and splitting the middle ground between the default included AMP1 MK3 and the AMP8 MK2. The AMP1 MK3 is a neutral-bright tuned amp with what I found a lack of dynamics and just a sterile sound. 

The AMP8 MK2 went a different direction with a more warm and robust sound, that was also slightly darker in the treble range, and gave a more musical sound. The MK2S closely resembles the AMP3 MOD, which had both the neutral-ish sound with extended treble, but also a slight euphonic warmth to it, that provides a nice body, without the occasional bloom that I found with the MK2 regular.

With this, I do think I prefer the MK2S for the best overall choice on the iBasso DX240 for an all-arounder, at least to my preference. 

With the Xenns Top IEM, and listening to "Black Water" from Of Monsters and Men, I enjoyed the punchy bridge of the track and the semi-open soundstage. As with most iBasso products, the soundstage isn't large, and is a little more forward than my experiences with Lotoo or Cowon players, but the MK2S does increase the soundstage over the MK2.

Final Thoughts

If you already own a DX240, but have not purchased the AMP8 MK2, this seems like an easy recommendation to go grab if you're happy with the player itself. It adds 4.4mm capabilities and an improved and more refined  sound to the default amp module. If you already have MK2, then the refinements are smaller and perhaps may not be a fully needed upgrade. I personally am happy with the choice to purchase this, as it keeps my interest in the DAP longer, and now gives me three different tuning choices to pick from (4, if I count the AMP3 Mod, though I do not actually use that one anymore since it does not have 3.5mm nor 4.4mm capabilities).