iBasso DX160

Sound Analysis.

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.

ibasso_dx160-25

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.

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

ibasso_dx160-31

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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