iBasso DX160

Wired/Wireless connections.

In this section of the review I will go over various wired and wireless connections I tested and verified with DX160.  Considering this is a new release and iBasso already pushed a few updates, I’m not sure if some of its limitations is still work in progress.  For example, I wasn’t able to get digital out to work with Micro iDSD, but iBasso’s own DC01/DC02 usb dac/amp dongle was recognized.  Or, Bluetooth Wireless performance didn’t yield the same long distance coverage I’m used to with DX220 and other DAPs.  I will come back to update this section if any new features will be added.

USB DAC.

DX160 was recognized as USB DAC by Win10Pro (T480s), and drivers were installed automatically.  Volume level adjustment is only controlled from the DAP, even so you can also change it from laptop without any effect.  Playing the same track from DX160 vs laptop while using DX160 as USB DAC – I hear a little fuller body when used as USB DAC, but in general the sound is very close in tonality and technical performance.

Wireless Bluetooth.

I paired up DX160 with B&W P7 Wireless and found it to work within 20-25ft in open space, away from the DAP.  In comparison, the same pair of headphones worked double that distance with DX220.  In my case, it works, but there are some hiccups along the way.  Also, I can remotely control the volume and skip track forward/back, but not play/pause (exactly the same as with DX220).  I found the sound quality identical when paired up with my Galaxy S9, except using my phone I’m able to move back about 50ft with P7W.

Line Out (LO).

Line Out test was performed using FiiO E12A as external portable amp.  First, you need to switch to LO in Audio Setting.  When enabled, volume can be easily adjusted from the DAP.  Using E12A, the sound loses its holographic soundstage and some resolution, becoming smoother and more organic.  To me this suggests that internal DX160 headphone amp is an important contributing factor to its soundstage expansion (thought could also be due to a difference between 4.4mm when I compare directly from DX160 vs 3.5mm from E12A).

Digital Out (SPDIF).

SPDIF test was performed with iFi Micro iDSD BL.  First, you need to switch to SPDIF in Audio Setting.  When enabled, volume can’t be adjusted from DAP, only from external DAC/amp.  Here the sound had a typical sound sig and tonality of iDSD BL without any distortion or coloration.  You can definitely use DX160 as a digital transport with streaming capability to drive external DAC/amp.  One thing to note, the cable wasn’t included, and I was using DX200/220 short SPDIF cable for this test.

Conclusion.

While in my previous review I considered DX220 to be an upgrade of DX200 when it comes to audio performance, in a way the DX160 felt like a side-grade of their flagship platform.  No, it’s not going to replace DX220 flagship.  Why would a company release a mid-fi DAP at a fraction of the price to kill sales of their flagship?  Instead, it offers a slicker non-modular alternative, with a similar system performance, at a fraction of the price, for those who would prefer a slimmer pocket friendly DAP without sacrificing too much of audio performance which I personally found to be not too far off their flagship.

Taking my reviewer hat off and looking at DAPs from a consumer perspective, I understand everybody is searching for that one perfect device with all the bells’n’whistles.  And today, a sub $500 price bracket is the most competitive.  Thus, you have to figure out which features are at the top of your list and which ones have a lower priority.  Then, narrow down and compare DAPs side-by-side, with their corresponding Pros and Cons.  If you go by Android benchmark scores, perhaps DX160 is not the fastest (or the smallest in size), but it packs one heck of an audio performance with one heck of a display screen which is hard to ignore, especially at $399 price tag!

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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