iBasso DX160

Comparison.

In this test, I was using U18t, set at low gain, using filter 1 on DX160.  This comparison is based mostly on tonality only, not the features.  Each of these DAPs has their own Pros/Cons when it comes to features, all of which should be taken into consideration depending on your priorities if you need streaming or not, which balanced termination you prefer, how much output power do you need, your battery requirements, etc.  Also, in the below comparison I’m referring to DX221 as DX220+amp1ii and DX228 as DX220+amp8.

DX160 vs DX221 – Upon many extended listening sessions to compare these two, I still find 160 to have a wider soundstage, spreading further Left/Right without being exaggerated.  Both have a similar soundstage depth, where you don’t feel too far away or too close to the artist, but the advantage of width difference goes to 160.  When it comes to other aspects of technical performance, perhaps DX221 has better dynamics and more transparency and a touch less coloring in mids, but it is not exactly night’n’day and it got to the point where in a blind test I even got it a few times wrong.  I’m not trying to say that 160 and 221 sounds identical.  With both in front of me I do hear the difference, but it is mostly in soundstage where 160 is wider, and in mids where 221 is a little brighter and more transparent while 160 has a little more body with a slightly thicker, more organic tonality.  Both were tested in low gain with Filter 1 (fast roll-off) filter.

DX160 vs DX228 – While in this comparison the soundstage, both width and depth, are nearly close in comparison, the differences in sound are more noticeable.  While both have a similar sub-bass rumble, 228 mid-bass punch is tighter and with a little more impact.  The quality of amp8 bass was always one of its strongest points.  160 still packs a nice low-end punch, but it’s a bit softer in comparison.  Mids have a similar amount of body to give the sound a more natural characteristics, but 160 is a little warmer, a little smoother, and doesn’t have the same level of resolution as 228.  The difference is not that big, but you can still notice amp8 having an edge over 160.  But the fact that I’m comparing 228 to 160 which cost less than a half while the difference is not that overly drastic (keep in mind, stock AMP8, not AMP8-EX), speaks volumes about 160 sound quality.

DX160 vs DX150 – The difference here is more noticeable, especially starting with a soundstage where depth is similar, but 150 soundstage width is noticeably narrower in comparison to 160.  And this difference is not just a little, but very noticeable.  Both have a neutral natural tonality, and a similar signature, though I find 150 bass to punch a little harder.  The bigger difference here is in technical performance, where besides soundstage, 160 also has the advantage of a better dynamics where in comparison 150 sounds more compressed and not as layered.

DX160 vs Cayin N5iiS – While not as big gap as with some other DAPs, I still find 160 soundstage to be wider in this comparison.  Also, have a similar technical performance, though I do hear N5iiS having some improvement in dynamics and layering of the sound, with a little more air between the layers.  The overall tonality is very similar, but with bass N5iiS has a little more slam, especially in mid-bass.  Also, N5iiS treble is just a little brighter, crisper.  Aside from the sound, I think open android design of DX160 vs a more closed design of N5iiS will be a deciding factor, especially if you’re into streaming.

DX160 vs Shanling M5s – The gap in soundstage width difference here is not as big, but I still find 160 to have a wider soundstage.  Technical performance is also very similar when it comes to vertical dynamics of the sound expansion, along with layering and separation.  But the difference in tonality is quite noticeable.  M5s has a warm tonality with a sound being more colored while in comparison 160 is more neutral and more transparent.  Also, relative to using U18t for sound analysis, M5s has more bass slam, with both sub-bass and mid-bass being more elevated in comparison to more neutral 160.  In general, 160 is Android based DAP with access to many apps (streaming), while M5s is lacking that.

DX160 vs theBit Opus#1S – Starting with a soundstage, these are very similar, especially in width being close. Technical performance is also very close, I hear a similar vertical dynamics expansion, and a similar layering and separation of the sounds.  The tonality is where I hear big difference, but relatively to U18t, the main difference is in mids/vocals where #1S sounds brighter, thinner, and dryer, not as refined, while 160 has a richer, more natural tonality. Plus, 160 is a fully open Android DAP with access to apps/streaming, while Opus#1S is not.

DX160 vs Hiby R5 – Again, soundstage was the first thing I noticed right away where 160 is wider, spreading further to the L/R.  The impact and extension of the bass is very similar here.  With mids/vocals I hear R5 being a little bit brighter while 160 has a little more body, smoother, a bit more organic.  Treble response is the same.  From a technical perspective, 160 is a little more dynamic and with a slightly better layering of the sounds.  Both are great DAPs, and I think for many the decision will be between a bigger and more beautiful display of DX160, along with some advantages in sound performance, vs a smaller and more compact R5 with a faster android performance.

DX160 vs FiiO M11 – And again, soundstage is the first thing I noticed with DX160 being a lot wider in comparison to M11 narrower staging width.  With a tonality, considering M11 sounds very similar to R5, I also hearing a little more body in mids of DX160, while the bass and the treble are similar.  M11 sound is a bit compressed to my ears, basically not as dynamic as 160, but it’s in a similar way as in comparison with R5.  Not a big difference, but noticeable with more resolving IEMs upon closer listening.  Besides soundstage difference, another very noticeable one is M11 hissing with sensitive IEMs.

ibasso_dx160-20

Page 7 – Wired/Wireless Connections, and Conclusion.

37 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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      1. Hi Thx for such an in depth review I was wondering how would you compare this to the old Hiby R6? And If I would be able to get the old R6 and the R5 for the same price which one should I get?

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      2. I wouldn’t recommend old R6, it has high output impedance which messes the sound of many IEMs. So, scratch R6 off your list. R5 is nice, definitely cheap at $299, but its sound quality is not the same as DX160, though R5 has a faster processor and better wifi/BT performance.

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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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      1. I am in the same dilemma, i had the DX90 and loved it now i use the X7II and i am not a fan, its boring thats what i can say. Loved the DX90 and would be looking forward to something similar/

        Is the DX160 more like the DX90 or the X7 II tonally ?

        thanks

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      2. Have no idea how dx90 sounds, sorry. X7ii, aside from tonality that varied between amps, the biggest problem with older fiio daps was lack of dynamics with everything sounding flat, boxed, and boring. Dx160 is definitely not that.

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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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  8. For Just pure SQ wise could you rec 3-5 daps the best for under $500? They dont have to be feature packed or android, just SQ and power
    Thank u

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    1. there are not too many DAPs I have tested under $500. Based on pure SQ, DX160 is definitely among the best. R3 Pro is pretty good too and so does AP80 Pro (and probably its copper version).

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  9. Hello there, thanks for the in depth review.

    I currently own the dx80 and have been looking for an android dap upgrade for a while now. In your opinion, soundwise, is the dx160 an upgrade to the dx80?

    Thank you!

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  10. First want to tell you how much I love your website the reviews are very informative and easy to read. My question is about the future. I have the DX 160 I love it. However you’re absolutely right about the Bluetooth it’s almost nonexistent if I get more than a few feet away it drops out. Same with the Wi-Fi you have to be right on top of the signal for it to work. So I see for yes a much higher price 2 new digital audio players hitting the market. One I think is out now the I Basso 220 Max the other is about to come out soon Hiby R8. What I know so far about the new I Basso is that it’s a much bigger unit. I think they’re saying it’s more transportable than portable. However I hear the sound is amazing. So you may not have any answers now but in the future could you do a comparison between the 220 Max and the new R8. Specifically I want to know about the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on both of them. I hear the new R8 is going to have a Sim card slot. Like to know how well that works. Also a size comparison is the R8 going to be more portable than the DX 220 Max. Finally on the upgrade I only had to pay $400 for the 160. I’m not rich so this will be a considerable investment. Do you think it will be worth it to bump up to the R8 in terms of sound compared to the 160 same with the 220 Max I know they’re going to sound better but is it marginally better or noticeably better. I know I threw a lot at you for units you probably don’t have yet ha ha. But during this pandemic time I’m feeling a little antsy and rather than go burning down a building or or fighting with the police I think I’ll just spent a lot of money on a portable music player. Thanks in advance for your answer.

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    1. I do have MAX and R8 is incoming, but I don’t know how R8 will sound/perform. But I can tell you with certainty that R8 most likely will have a much better BT/Wifi performance. Listen, I love ibasso products and truly respect them as a brand, but their focus is more on sound performance, not BT/wifi. Even DX220 MAX which sounds amazing, still uses old rockchip processor and all the same digital guts as dx200 and dx220. And yes, MAX is not portable at 750g in weight and a big size, but it is transportable, you can carry it in a pocket of cargo pants, and the analog design is high end desktop quality. Hopefully, their next flagship release (maybe next year?) will step up using different CPU/GPU and better performance BT/Wifi. On the other hand, Hiby is the company who used to write sw/fw for everybody from fiio to cayin, shanling, hidizs, and many others until they decided to release their own hardware product line. They really know the “digital” side of android design, how to optimize it with their own mods and drivers, and always go for the fastest hardware. I don’t know how R8 will sound, but at flagship level they all sound good… But, everything at that level will be in over $1k range, way over $1k range. DX160, just purely on its audio performance is on a VERY high level which can match daps twice its price. If you are really feeling antsy, why don’t you look into upgrading your IEMs/headphones to the next level. You will get a LOT more noticeable improvement in sound quality by upgrading your IEMs rather than upgrading your DAP. Just saying 😉

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      1. Thank you so much for your quick reply. So I have the two TOTL drop IEM’s the Noble Kaiser 10 and their Empire Ears Zeus. I also have the Final Audio Heaven VIII (the best sounding headphone I think I have but just very heavy). the Sony Z5 and the Shure 846’s. An example of older headphone I really like is the Fostex TE05. So here’s the thing when I was working pre-virus I was listening to a lot more IEM’s at work. But with the virus I’m working mostly from home so I tend to be listening to my speakers a lot more. So I run my DX 160 through a Sony amplifier to JBL speakers. However even when I do finally get back to the office whenever that will be I work in a secure location where Wi-Fi is all encrypted. There is no public Wi-Fi. So the R8 looked very interesting because of the Sim card possibilities. However even in my home I cannot use the DX 160 with my Sony because it’s not near where the Wi-Fi router is. So there’s always problems. There’s a lot of dropout it will just stop after a track won’t go to the next track because the connection is not secure. Now if I use my phone I have no problem because both the Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth are way better. So I was really looking for something that had way better Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Again the R8 looked intriguing because of the Sim card possibilities. So based on what you told me and also based on my own research it looks like the R8 is the way to go. Yes I know it’s going to be very expensive probably over $2000. So based on the IEM’s I have and I prefer IEM’s vs over the ear headphones. If I was going to spend my 2000 on an IEM versus the R8 which one would you recommend that would give me my best bang for the buck. Also I should throw in the mix I listen to mostly jazz and classical especially with my top-of-the-line IEM’s. I find that popular styles like Pop, R&B, Rock, EDM etc. sound good to me with pretty much any headphone because the music is created to be heard on cheap headphones. So thanks again appreciate the quick reply and I always love the reviews.

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    1. You are not going to damage it, especially since you can still adjust the output using volume wheel. LO output supposed to bypass internal amplifier so you only hear the output of internal DAC.

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  11. Thanks for the great review! I would like to ask which earphones would you choose with this player for classical music – Andromeda or Solaris, if you had to choose between these two?
    Thanks!

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  12. I have 192 kHz (fully unfolded track) in Tidal app on my Ibasso dx160, can I get the same 192kHz when connected to an external DAC over spdif?

    Tested the same over USB and only got 96kHz out of 192kHz on an external DAC.

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