I analyzed DX160 sound with U18t IEMs while playing a variety of my favorite test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, Galantis “Hunter”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Robin Schultz “Oh child”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”. As recommended by manufacturer, I let DX160 burn in for over 100hrs using balanced burn-in cable from DX220. At the time of sound analysis, I had close to 200hrs between burn in and actual playback time.
DX160 has a balanced signature with a more neutral natural tonality. I consider the sound to be balanced since there is no extra emphasis on either bass, mids, or treble, everything is equally emphasized. With tonality, out of the box and even a dozen of hours after the initial playback, it was more neutral reference with a slightly more revealing tilt. But after about 200hrs of combined listening and standalone burn in playback, the tonality became a little smoother, richer, more musical. As a result, my initial impression of a colder neutral reference tonality shifted toward a more natural smoother flavor of it.
Of course, the sound we are hearing will be heavily dependent on the actual signature of IEMs and headphones we are using and the synergy with a source, but in many pair ups a noticed a great textured sub-bass rumble with a deeper extension, a less aggressive average speed bass, more natural detailed layered mids and vocals, and more natural yet still crisp treble. The pair up of headphones with DX160 in many cases did take an edge off digital tonality of the sound.
The soundstage perception will depend on tuning of IEMs/headphones, but overall, it’s very wide and with a good depth. As a source, DX160 doesn’t limit the soundstage expansion. Imaging is very realistic with a precise placement of instruments and vocals in space. Also helps that sound has good dynamics, never feeling compressed or congested, but at the same time I would call the layering with many IEMs to be a little more reserved due to a smoother revealing nature of the sound without too much treble/air between the layers.
The background was black, and even with low impedance sensitive IEMs the hissing level was faint, in some cases I had to unplug earphones from a balanced jack to confirm if I hear any waterfall hissing at all. And with a blacker background, you should expect a faster and a cleaner transient of notes on/off.
4.4mm vs 3.5mm
When I compare Balanced and Single Ended ports, volume matched, I had to set Volume 25 (4.4mm) vs Volume 33 (3.5mm). Aside from difference in output power which is reflected in this volume comparison, the soundstage of 3.5mm output is not as wide, and I can also hear Balanced output to have blacker background.
Digital filters always generate a mixed opinion since not everybody can hear their effect. We all have different hearing level, use different headphones, play different music. From my own personal experience, changes in sound when switching between filters are more subtle, but I still do hear some which I would like to describe below. Keep in mind I started with filter 1 as my baseline tuning. All the testing was done using U18t balanced with a DAP output in low-gain.
1 (fast roll-off) – deep sub-bass rumble, faster attack/decay of the mid-bass
2 (short delay slow roll-off) – more sub-bass rumble, the same mid-bass as in fast roll off
3 (short delay fast roll-off) – leaner/less sub-bass rumble, the same mid-bass as in fast roll off
4 (slow roll-off) – more sub-bass rumble, and slower attack of the mid-bass