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.
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.
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.
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!