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.