iBasso DX160

Design.

Coming off DX150/200/220, DX160 is a lot slimmer and more comfortable in your hand, especially when you are comparing all these DAPs in their corresponding stock cases.  But you also have to keep in mind, those are modular designs which add extra bulk.  DX160 is not as small and slick as DX120, but bigger size is expected due to a full Android DAP with 5” display.  Despite its 5” hi-res (1080×1920, selected in Setting as 1080p or 720p) Sharp screen, iBasso designed DX160 alloy-aluminum chassis to fit display edge to edge, without any wasted space.  The overall size of DX160 is 113mm x 69mm x 15mm.  The weight of 178g feels light in my hand as well.  Once power is on, the display with its rich colors and high resolution is definitely an eye candy.

ibasso_dx160-46

Top of the DAP has USB-C port in the middle for USB charging, data transfer, and USB DAC connection.  Next to it is a power button, with the usual long press for power on/off, and short press for display on/off.  Left side of the DAP has spring loaded microSD card slot, supporting up to a usual 2TB flash cards.  At the bottom you have 4.4mm Balanced headphone port, and next to it a multi-function 3.5mm port selectable as headphone, line out, or SPDIF.  On the right side you have a new golden slick low profile volume wheel, and hardware playback control buttons with skip and play/pause.  The back of DX160 has a curved glass panel.

While DX160 has a simple slick design, it still has a distinct personality with golden external accent disks around headphone ports, golden slim volume wheel with slightly raised top/bottom guards around it, slick glass back, and a gorgeous bezel-less display (16.7 million colors, 445PPI retina fine display).

Under the hood.

Inside, iBasso decided to take a break from the usual AKM and ESS DACs, using a dual CS43198 DAC.  But after this break, went back to their good-old Rockchip Octa Core processor.  I confirmed AnTuTu 3D benchmark score to be on par with DX220, no surprises here, even so DX160 has 2GB of RAM.  I know, the performance score is not as high as what I have seen with other Snapdragon and Exynos DAPs, but iBasso already has a sw platform built around this processor, and they decided to focus more on analog design and audio performance of the DAP, instead of starting from scratch with a new processor.

Based on my experience with DX160, using its Mango v2 audio app, or streaming using Qobuz and Spotify, or just a general navigation around the system, I didn’t find any lag or other issues.  Is it as fast as my Galaxy S9 phone?  Definitely not.  Is it faster than other Snapdragon based DAPs?  Not really.  But when advantage in performance is measured in milliseconds, for me personally it’s not a big deal.  Perhaps it will become more apparent if playing video games or running more CPU and GPU intense apps.  But for audio playback and streaming popular apps, it was fast enough.

As already mentioned, DX160 has Balanced and Single Ended ports.  4.4mm BAL has a low 0.4 ohms impedance and 6.4Vrms output.  The single ended 3.5mm port is also low impedance, 0.3 ohms, with 3.2Vrms output.  3.5mm port is multi-functional and could be selected between 3.5mm Headphone Out, 3.5mm Line Out, and SPDIF digital out using the same cables as provided with DX150/200/220 (the cable wasn’t included with DX160).

Internal storage is 32GB, and you can expand it further with micro SD card.  WiFi supports a dual band, covering both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.  Bluetooth is based on BT5.0, including support of LDAC, aptX and other codecs.  I will talk more in my review about BT performance which I found to be a little underpowered (in terms of a distance).

USB port supports Type-C (for charging and data transfer), and also supports popular quick charge standards, such as QC3.0 and PD2.0.  Internal battery is 3200mAH li-po battery, and I confirmed getting about 9.5hrs of playback time on DX160 (4.4mm BAL, low gain, FLAC in a loop with a display off).  Going to single ended and with mp3 playback should extend this playback time, while going in the opposite direction with a playback of power demanding DSD files will shorten that playback time, as expected.

ibasso_dx160-00

Based on its DAC, DX160 supports variety of lossy and lossless audio formats, such as APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, CUE, ISO, M3U, M3U8.  I tested up to DSD256, all without a problem.  But one very important format support here is MQA.  Since you can install and run Tidal app, it automatically gives you partial software unfolding (decoding), but the device has to be certified for a full hw decoding.  I was able to confirm that DX160 supports full MQA unfolding to the original file format while playing MQA FLAC files, noticing the correctly interpreted bit depth, sampling frequency, and sampling rate.

ibasso_dx160-29

Lately I have been using DX160 a lot for Qobuz streaming.  I had no issues with that so far, tried it on WiFi at home and at work, always a strong connection, never drop outs, and fast access without any stuttering or buffering.  Also, I’m able to download content for off-line listening and access it later without a need for WiFi.  And of course, the artwork of tracks is a treat to view on DX160 display.  32GB of internal storage is not that much, but with access to expand it with 1TB micro SD and all the streaming sources, there is no complaints here.

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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