Pros: Warm balanced sound, great bass extension, excellent selection of accessories/eartips
Cons: extension cable
I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with Beyerdynamic brand (designed and engineered in Germany) and their popular over-ear headphones, considered to be at the top of a lot of audiophile lists. But not a lot of you, including myself, are familiar with their in-ear product line. Though I had an opportunity to review not too long ago one of their flagship Custom One Pro headphones, I was very curious to find out how Beyerdynamic scaled down their legendary bass driven sound to a small in-ear footprint. Here is what I found.
Starting with a packaging box, you get a detailed walk through of the design and functionality, technical specification, and a list of included accessories. Even before you flip the magnetic cover to reveal DX 160ie under the plastic screen, you get a very good idea that you are dealing with a premium set of audiophile headphones. Out of the box, you are presented with a lightweight design of all aluminum housing with a detailed anodized finish and textured aluminum ring design and a metal mesh covering the nozzle. The pinhole port opening next to molded strain relief is always a dead giveaway to expect a great bass performance. Though L/R identification on strain relief is not easy to see, a noticeable bump on the R side guides you to id it even in a dark. For their DX 160ie model, Beyerdynamic chose a flat tangle free cable which gives it a more modern design look.
Further examination of the cable, revealed a first surprise. The original cable attached to headphones is very short, approximately 0.3m, and both of the flat cable sides come together in 3.5mm connector. I asked Beyerdynamic to clarify this choice since majority will use it with an attached extension for a standard length. Apparently, this design decision was driven by a number of requests from business travelers, specifically for airplane flights to cut down on cable clutter. To make everybody happy, Beyerdynamic came up with a solution of an original short cable and a regular length extension. You can always look at it as if 3.5mm angled connector of the extension ever gets damaged (I personally wasn't too crazy about strain relief sleeve in there and a small size of the connector which is hard to grab on to), you don't have to replace headphones and instead just need to replace a cable extension. I'm also hoping they will introduce another 3.5mm socketed extension with in-line remote for playback control of smartphone/tablet.
Moving on to the included accessories, Beyerdynamic made sure to please everybody!!! First of all, included is a very generous selection of 7 pairs of eartips, ranging in different sizes and double and triple flange design, as well as a bonus pair of Comply foam eartips. I already mentioned about extension cable which I'm going to use as permanent attachment, and there is also a shirt clip. Furthermore, a premium round hard case is included, as well as a clever adapter which enables attachment of 2 headphones to the same 3.5mm source. This is a definitely impressive collection of accessories including premium tips, but the main question - how do these sound?
I always take with a grain of salt vendor's claim about "premium sound quality" they put in a description of the product. But in this case you can be certain Beyerdynamic put all of their years of German engineering design experience to deliver the goods!!! Till this moment my only experience with audiophile quality in-ear balanced sound was using multi-driver BA IEMs. With those it makes sense how using a cross-over and a separate dedicated balance armature drivers you can tune the sound. With DX 160ie we are talking about a single dynamic Neodymium driver which has been tuned to a perfection of balanced response across entire frequency range AND a bass extension with an enhanced quantity. The sound signature is a little more brighter than MMX 102ie, but still on a warmer side due to control of the upper range. Starting with a bass, lows are extended down to the rumbling sub-bass level with a nice texture and a fast mid-bass punch. The bass is well controlled, not bloated, and doesn't spill into mids. It's hard to tell if mids are a bit recessed due to a bass quantity, but they definitely have a balanced presence in the mix with plenty of details and clarity. As a result of that, you get a natural sounding powerful vocal delivery, something I enjoyed from my other IEMs that cost 4x as much. Treble has a detailed sparkle and extension without a hint of sibilance. Overall sound is very transparent and smooth, a bit on a warmer side since the brightness is not too much in your face. The soundstage/imaging is above the average. Also, I found these headphones to be forgiving even using lower quality mp3s, and they paired up nicely with either laptop or smartphone or DAP. One thing I did notice, while testing it with X5 I had to raise the volume level by about 10 units in comparison to other IEMs. This wasn't an issue driving them directly from my phone or laptop, so I assume X5 is more sensitive to the impedance considering these are 47 ohm versus typical 16-20 ohm with other headphones.
Overall, I can tell you with certainty that I just found my new favorite pair of dynamic in-ear headphones!!! I still value my multi-driver BA IEMs, but every other single dynamic driver headphone I tested in the past had something desired for improvement (either too much of v-shape sound, or veiled sound, or too much bass, or not enough clarity/details, etc.). The sound signature of these headphones is just perfect and really hits the sweet spot for me, and made me forget about any gripe I had with a cable. On top of that, if you consider an introductory price of $119 (and already seen it lower on Amazon) which also includes a very generous selection of accessories - this is one amazing value for a single dynamic driver headphones.
Here are the pictures of un-boxing and up close details for your enjoyment.