iBasso DX160

Pair up.

The sound of a DAP is based on pair up synergy with different headphones.  Afterall, you are hearing the sound of headphones connected to the Source.  In this section of my review I will go over how various headphones pair up with DX160, in low gain, filter 1.  I noted volume “V” in every pair up.  Most were wired balanced, unless stated otherwise.

64 Audio U18t (V25) – wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature, unlike in some other pair ups where it’s more mid-forward; natural revealing tonality with an excellent retrieval of details; textured sub bass rumble with an average speed mid-bass punch, natural revealing layered mids/vocals, well controlled crisp treble.  Not a hint of hissing, not even a waterfall.

Fir Audio M5 (V24) – wide soundstage with a little more out of your head depth; balanced sound signature with a more neutral revealing tonality of mids/vocals; sub-bass rumble that extends pretty deep and an average speed mid-bass punch (not too fast or too slow), clear detailed mids with a slightly more forward presentation and natural revealing tonality, natural sparkly well controlled treble with a moderate extension.  Not a hint of hissing here, dead quiet.

Empire Ears Legend X (V32) – wide soundstage expansion; L-shaped sound signature but more controlled bass impact; natural smoother organic tonality; the bass is a little bouncy, has more body, more mid-bass than sub-bass emphasis which makes it less fatigue, mids being detailed organic, and the treble being more natural with a moderate amount of sparkle.  It’s still L-shaped sound sig to please bassheads, and the bass is certainly noticeable, but it doesn’t feel as weighted or rumbling like in some other pair ups, thus my reference to bass being “bouncy”.

iBasso IT04 (V24) – very wide/deep soundstage; balanced sound signature with a neutral revealing tonality; bass comes alive in this pair up with a more noticeable rumble and faster mid-bass punch, mids/vocals sound detailed, revealing, but in a more natural realistic way, treble has a good sparkle, extension, and well controlled and natural. Pitch black background without any hissing.

ibasso_dx160-24

Campfire Audio Andromeda (V10) – very wide soundstage spread; balanced sound signature; more natural revealing tonality; I hear a good balance between a textured sub-bass rumble extension and a slower more laidback mid-bass punch with an average attack/decay, smooth natural detailed mids, not as revealing or micro-detailed but with a natural retrieval of details, crisp and airy non-fatigue well controlled treble.  Very faint waterfall hissing, so faint that I had to unplug headphones to double check it.

Campfire Audio Solaris (V9) – wide soundstage expansion with more depth, pushing the sound a little more out of your head, making it a little more holographic; balanced sound signature with a noticeable emphasis on lows, mids, and treble; a little brighter more revealing tonality; deep textured sub-bass rumble with a faster mid-bass punch, bass sounds very analog, mids are more revealing, layered, micro-detailed, and still natural in tonality without sounding harsh, treble is more crisp, airy, extended, well controlled (non-fatigue). Some waterfall hissing, a bit more than Andro, but not by a lot.

Noble K10UA (V33) – very wide/deep soundstage; balanced sound signature with a more revealing tonality; bass has a decent sub-bass rumble extension with a fast punchy well controlled mid-bass, mids are leaner brighter layered and with retrieval of details on micro-detail level, treble is crisp and airy, on the edge of being a bit fatigue, but still quite tolerable.  Tested these with a stock 3.5mm cable.

Meze Empyrean (V40) – wide/deep soundstage expansion, approaching holographic level.  Balanced sound sig with a more natural revealing brighter tonality.  Bass is well textured with a nice sub-bass rumble and fast mid bass punch.  Lower mids are neutral while upper mids are more revealing, layered, micro-detailed; treble is crisp, airy, with a nice sparkle, and still non-fatigue.  It was a good pair up, but to my surprise was a little more on a revealing side.

ibasso_dx160-27

Beyerdynamic T5p 2nd (V39) – soundstage width is above average, with more out of your head depth in this pair up.  The sound sig is balanced with a little more emphasis on mids where I hear vocals having a little more forward presentation.  Bass has a nice sub-bass rumble and mid-bass actually has a faster punch, but to my ears bass is pushed a bit into the background, giving vocals more room to shine.  Vocals are more revealing, layered, non-fatigue.  Treble is crisp with a nice well controlled sparkle.  But I wasn’t too crazy about this pair up, due to a narrow soundstage width and a little offset in a balanced between lows and mids.

iBasso SR1 (V38) – soundstage has just OK width and I hear more out of your head depth here.  The signature is balanced with a smooth natural detailed tonality.  Bass has a nice laidback presentation with a good sub-bass extension, going down to a deep rumble without being too exaggerated, and an average speed mid-bass punch.  Mids sounds very organic, with a good retrieval of details and lots of clarity, treble has plenty of crisp details and airiness without being fatigue.  DX160 was driving these without a problem.  SR1 were used with perforated pads.

ibasso_dx160-26

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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