iBasso DX160

Cheaper and better!

PROS: price, beautiful 5” high res display, Mango v2 app w/PEQ, BT 5.0 (LDAC, aptX), fast charging, MQA support, wide soundstage, resolving, neutral, natural tonality.

CONS: not the strongest BT performance, the same Rockchip SOC (as in older models).

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer website: iBasso.  Could be purchased directly from manufacturer or Penon Audio or Amazon.


Intro.

I find every new DAP release from iBasso to be a surprise, and not only because it is usually unexpected, but also because it turns into a guessing game around the model number.  iBasso doesn’t just randomly assigns DX number.  Instead, lots of thought goes behind placing the new model in a lineup of their existing DAPs.  Right after the latest announcement, everybody started to speculate because DX160 comes after DX150.  Could it be an upgrade of their “budget” Android modular model?  Will it cost more than DX150, with a price tag higher than $500?  Turned out to be neither.

If I would to describe the first thought that ran through my mind when I got DX160 in my hands, it felt like a crossover between feature packed Android-based DX220 flagship and slim’n’slick non-modular DX120.  It was a surprise that iBasso announced their new Android-based DAP to be non-modular, though it also allowed them to slim it down while keeping the output power (per spec) on the same level as AMP1ii and AMP8.  But spec is just a number.  Now, after spending the last month testing DX160 (and answering multiple dozens of questions on Head-fi), I’m ready to share about what I found.

Unboxing and Accessories.

DX160 arrived in a small compact box, nearly identical in size and design to the one with DX120.  I always look at the box from a different perspective, and perhaps iBasso tried to make a statement here that DX220 with its bigger box is still the flagship (or maybe I’m just reading too much into this lol!!!).  But either way, you have a sturdy cardboard sleeve with iBasso logo and the spec on the back, and a box with a magnetic cover inside the sleeve.

Inside the box, everything is nicely partitioned and organized to keep DX160 secure during transport, along with accessories and documentation.  Besides DX160, you get a premium quality USB-C cable, 2 sets of film screen protector, quick start guide, warranty card, HDtracks card, and MQA card to remind you DX160 supports MQA full unfolding in hardware.

The case was included as well, but unlike DX150/200/220 leather cases which added some bulk to the DAP, to keep DX160 slim iBasso included a clear TPU case.  In my personal opinion, that was a right move.  Besides being slim, the transparency of the case allows to see the actual design without any bulk.  The case has a secure grip, covers the back and the sides, has a generous opening for headphone and USB ports, access to micro SD card, and volume wheel.  Playback buttons and power button are covered, and still allow easy operation and the feel of tactile response.  The TPU case is a bit slippery, though it does enhance the grip, protects DX160 from scratches, and even from minor drops and bumps since it wraps around the corners and display edges.

Page 2 – Design, and Under the hood.
Page 3 – GUI, and EQ/PEQ.
Page 4 – Sound Analysis, and Digital filters.
Page 5 – Pair up with IEMs and Headphones.
Page 6 – Comparison with different DAPs.
Page 7 – Wired/Wireless Connections, and Conclusion.

18 thoughts on “iBasso DX160

    1. imho, it will not get better. In case of DX150, the DAC is behind its technical performance which is just OK. AMP7 can color the sound a little, maybe improve some dynamics, but technically DX150 with any amp (even amp8) will still be inferior to DX160.

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      1. Hi. I use the X5iii(line out) via a Magni 3 amp+hd598 headphone. Following the above configuHiration(line out+amp) does the X5iii then have a sound quality as good as Ibasso DX160?

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      2. I still think LO of DX160 will be better due to a different DAC (LO is a direct DAC output). But again, “better” is very subjective. X5iii DAC is warmer/smoother than DX160 DAC, so you might hear a combo with 160 to be more revealing, more layered.

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  1. Hey, I am about to buy a new DAP and stuck between DX160 and M11. To give you some context, I still use the original Fiio X5 (Gen 1) and still love its sound signature. Which one would you recommend? DX160 or M11?

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  2. Thanks for your review. I also read your DX120 review and found that you quite enjoyed that too, and now I am looking for a comparison between these two DAPs. What do you think of them in term of sound quality?

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    1. I need to charge up the battery again of dx120 to compare, but in general with dx160 out, I wouldn’t consider 120 unless you want something even smaller and lighter and need two micro SD cards. 120 was noisier with sensitive iems, and just not the same level of resolution, layering, and soundstage expansion. 160 sound quality is aiming closer to 220 with its default amp1mk2. But keep in mind, 160 Bluetooth performance is not that good if you are relying on it.

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  3. Been trying to look for an spdif cable for this unit. Not sure what kind of termination I should be looking for. A typical spdif RCA won’t fit the player. What connections should I be looking for for spdif output through the player? Thanks 👍🏻

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  4. This is a fantastically helpful review, particularly given the wide choice of mid-range DAPs nowadays. Thank you. I see you’ve reviewed the HiBy R6Pro too – which, thanks to your review, is now the only other DAP left on my shortlist (unless I buckle and go for a DX220 plus Amp 8 or a A&K SA700, but the extra cost seems barely worth it). I’d be grateful for your thoughts on Dx160 vs HiBy R6Pro, particularly on overall sound quality and robustness. The main pairing for me will be B&W P9s.

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    1. If we are talking about wired P9, either one should work fine based on sound quality of pair up, they both sound great. It’s the other features/use that will set them apart. For example, R6Pro Bluetooth wireless performance will be noticeably better or if you are running lots of apps, R6Pro will handle it more efficiently. But as a portable dap, Dx160 is lighter, slicker, and more enjoyable to use at a fraction of the price.

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  5. Good stuff. I think I’ll go for it. For those still looking for a leather case for the Dx160, there seem to be three options. First, a company called EASECASE sometimes puts one they make that looks pretty good on eBay or AliExpress (they do similar models for other iBasso players too). The nice thing about this is that it is real leather and evidently comes in a wide range of colours that can be ordered along with initials, if you’re into that sort of thing. Korean company Miter have a similar case, but in ‘PU leather’, on their Korean website, which I’ve not found elsewhere. Last, there’s a guy called Valentin Valentinum who advertises on Etsy hand makes leather cases and has done a Dx160 one to order. They’re a bit chunkier than the other two.

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  6. I’m currently still using the DX90 as my DAP but I’m hoping to upgrade for the ability to stream and the balanced output. I also have an OG micro iDSD. I was just wondering how the DX160 sounds with IEMs on balanced compred to your iDSD. Is the iDSD noticeably better even if you do not need the extra power? What are the major differences in sound signature and technicalities?

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    1. don’t think there going to be a huge difference in sound between micro iDSD and DX160. Basically, it all comes down to choosing between transportable setup with high power output and using your smartphone or another source to drive micro iDSD or using a totally portable solution, all in one with DX160. Personally, I would go with DX160, especially since you are planning to use IEMs.

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  7. Thanks for this!

    I was actually thinking of getting a BTR5 to pair with my phone since I’ve started streaming and since carrying a phone and a DAP might get a bit too bulky. I’ve also considered just waiting for the third generation of iDSDs but that seems to still be a year or two away. What draws me to the DX160 is the all-in-one solution but if I’m spending that much, I might as well just pick up an xDSD or shell out another $200 for the iDSD BL, especially if the sound quality is still significantly better on the iDSD, BL or not.

    Would you happen to have directly compared the DX160 as a USB DAC/Amp for IEMs? If no, it’s alright! Just wondering if that would bring the gap, if any, closer. I actually do not find the amp section of the iDSD to be the best being a bit thin and dry especially as you go up the power modes. The DAC on it though just brings so much body to the equation.

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    1. Yes, micro iDSD as amp is not that great, but as dac/amp it’s fantastic. But it’s transportable, not portable. Don’t have experience with xDSD. I have mentioned using dx160 as USB dac in my review, it makes the sound a little thicker when compared to playing the same track directly from the dap.

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