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iBasso DX160

Rating:
5/5,
Tags:
  1. HansBarbarossa
    iBasso DX160: silk veil of the finest tunes
    Written by HansBarbarossa
    Published Oct 21, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, convenience, design, price
    Cons - No
    Hi dear friends!

    I will not hide, meeting with the latest DAP from iBasso is akin to a holiday for me. This brand from the Middle Kingdom has long been a benchmark in the audiophile world, and without a doubt, it fully deserves it.

    Let me remind you that the company began its journey with the production of portable amplifiers and DACs. Moreover, in 2012, the brand introduced the DX100 audio player, which won the hearts of music lovers around the world. Later saw the light and younger models: DX50, DX90, DX80. Well, then the flagship DX200 appeared, which was notable for the possibility of replacing amplifier modules. This hereditary trait was passed on to models like the DX150 and the current flagship DX220. In addition, the kid with the DX120 index harmoniously blended into the new iBasso line of DAPs.

    And now, here we have a new budget hit - iBasso DX160. Yes, there will be no suspense about the qualities and properties of the monitored device today, we will leave unexpected interchanges for Hitchcock. In this case, I don’t see the point of suspecting the intrigue; we have a great DAP as a guest, which just captivated me. Let me tell you more about everything.

    Text: Alexey Kashirskey aka Hans Barbarossa

    Specifications

    Android 8.1 OS
    Screen: 5.0 inch 1080px OnCell Full Screen
    DAC chip: 2 × CS43198QFN
    RAM: 2 GB
    ROM: 32 GB
    CPU: Octa Core
    Outputs: 4.4mm balanced, 3.5mm headphones (combined with 3.5mm LO / S/PDIF coaxial)
    Bluetooth 5.0 / LDAC, APTX output
    WiFi: 80 2.11 b / g / n / ac (2.4Ghz / 5Ghz)
    USB: USB Type-C
    Battery: 3200 mAh / Quick Charge : QC3.0, PD2.0
    Dimensions: 113mm x 69mm x 15mm
    Weight: 178 gr.

    Appearance and kit

    DX160 comes in a small, stylish cardboard box in light purple with the manufacturer's logo and model name.

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    Inside, in addition to the player, a set has been put, to which there is nothing more to add, and everything is already there: spare protective films on the screen, a nice USB-C cable for connecting to a power adapter and synchronization with a PC, a silicone bumper case and well, the required warranty documents.

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    The dimensions of the device, by today's times, are rather modest: 113 mm x 69 mm x 15 mm. Therefore, it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand and fits easily in your pocket.

    The design and ergonomics of the device are beyond praise, and the materials from which it is made even more emphasize its extraordinary. The union of anodized aluminum and glass, embodied in a simple but sophisticated form, caused a wave of pure aesthetic pleasure in me. I experienced similar artistic and emotional experiences when I acquired my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

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    The DX160 comes in four colors; one another is better: red, blue, silver and black. I got the last option, and this, I tell you, is a gorgeous "dark theme."

    The entire front panel is occupied by a touch screen from Sharp (IPS, 5 inches, 1080px) with good responsiveness and excellent color reproduction. The back panel of the device is glossy, covered with plastic, made under the glass. From the packaging, a triangle-logo and model designation migrated to it.

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    On the right side there is a wheel recessed into the body for volume control with a pleasant smooth ride and control buttons: forward, start / pause, back. On the left side is a microSD slot, if 32 GB, which are already on board the device, are missed.

    The upper edge went to the on / off button and the type-C connector. Bottom pair of connectors: 4.4 mm balanced and 3.5 mm for headphones (combined with linear and S/PDIF coaxial).

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    For wireless manipulation, there is Wi-Fi (80 2.11 b / g / n / ac, 2.4Ghz / 5Ghz) and Bluetooth 5.0 with support for LDAC and aptX.

    When connected to a desktop PC or laptop, the device can operate as an external DAC / sound card.

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    The DAP has a battery capacity of 3200 mAh (8-10 hours of operation) with the ability to quickly charge (Quick Charge: QC3.0, PD2.0).

    Software and control

    Android 8.1 is responsible for the “inner life” of this DAP. Navigation is performed in a manner familiar to smartphones: swipe right, swipe left, curtain top and touch. The response is quick, and all the commands distributed on the screen with the index finger are executed with lightning speed. Well, for obscurantists (just kidding, just kidding) there is the ability to start and switch tracks with side buttons.

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    In general, the menu is simple and intuitive. It lacks only the Google Play Market service, however, this is not such a big problem. Almost any application can be installed using apk files - this is not a tricky business, it will take a few minutes.

    By the way, firmware, as with older brothers, flies through the air, the device itself finds and updates software when connected to a Wi-Fi network. You just need to go to the settings menu - the system and select the update search - everything is simple and convenient.

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    The DX160 also has four digital filters and an equalizer, which allows you to fine-tune the sound to your taste.

    In general, the device “out of the box” is already well optimized, and the manufacturer promises to regularly improve its software. Why, the player just left, and an update has already arrived on it for me!

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    Next begins my favorite part in every review. Well, you guess, right?

    Sound

    The DX160 model is based on two DAC chips: CS43198 from Cirrus Logic.

    Listening (audio testing) was conducted with: 64 AUDIO A18, 64 AUDIO A12t, Vision Ears VE8, Vision Ears VE4.2, FIR M5, BGVP DMS, Custom ART FIBAE4, InEar PP8, Beyerdynamic DT1350 & Phonon SMB-02.

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    With all the IEM / headphones, the device played more than worthy, no serious genre deviations were noticed. Separately, it should be noted that he perfectly copes with any type of IEM, not even giving in to low-impedance multi-driver / multi-drivers based on BA.

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    The DX160, like its eldest relative DX220 with AMP1 MK2, did not gasp, worked with 18 BA driver A18s from 64 AUDIO, and this, you know, is by no means for everyone, because these CIEMs are very demanding on amplification, and to the audio section as a whole. The player fully completed the task, demonstrating good control on all fronts. Pretty boy!

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    The sound of the DX160 is fervent, noble and very melodic. This is a smooth manner, with bodily filling of sound images and a darkened background, moderately expressive, with a good study of micro and macro nuances.

    The device, like the general iBasso DX220, has a good tonal balance, but has a warmer and thicker feed, which gives the sound of special charm and musicality. Undoubtedly, it is inferior to the leader in technicality and speed, but it wins in melody and ability to convey the emotional component. It has a picturesque, with its unforgettable charm, detailed and extremely comfortable sound.

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    This is by no means an even monitor sound, on the contrary, it has an excellent transmission of the emotional part and is mainly focused on the mid-frequency range, with warmth filling the whole picture, highlighting in the midbass area and a smooth, extremely neat focus in the upper middle region. Because of these masterfully placed accents, an unusually comfortable, charming and melodic manner is achieved. In such a pleasant atmosphere, I want to delight in enjoying my favorite music for hours without thinking about time.

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    Another point that I liked: iBasso DX160 does not impose its own rules of the game on the IEM/headphones, does not seek to redraw their “voice” for themselves. It only helps them to open and sound in all its glory, more juicy and driving. So the result of the "color" of the sound will depend on the bundle "player + headphones", which gives great variability.

    Let's take a closer look at the frequency amplitude.

    The bass is thick, energetic, well-tuned and well-controlled. Here there is a dense and precise strike, and relief, and good speed. Here, perhaps, there is a lack of texture transfer for drawing volume, although much here depends on the headphones. For example, with my FIR Audio M5 CIEM, I did not even notice this nuance. The subbass area is linearly applied, clearly complementing the low-frequency register, and the midbass area, in turn, is neatly forced. In general, the low-frequency range and the lower middle in the DX160 are charming; they work off their due, darkening the general background and filling the middle with vital substance, giving it velvet, physicality and naturalness.

    Mids is pleases with the detail, localization of sound sources in space and a smooth, charming manner. Vocal parts and string busts - everything sounds rich, lively and naturalistic. Mids are so comfortable and sweet-voiced that they seem to throw a silk veil on your head, woven from the finest tunes. And you sit, wrapped in harmonies, in the center of the sounding composition - how cozy and interesting it is!

    The high frequency range is accurate, crisp and clear. It is not a lot and not a little, as much as you need. There is no abundance of “air” or sophisticated after-tones, but there is a correct development of minor nuances, without undue aggression and artifacts - everything is fair and to the point. The register is served smoothly and comfortably, which contributes to long-term listening to music.

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    The virtual scene of the DX160 is medium in size, it is proportionately built in width and in depth.

    To summarize, I will describe the voice of the device as balanced, peppy, smooth, melodic, harmonious and charming.

    Conclusion

    In my opinion, the DX160 was a success, so much so that it’s not even clear what you can complain about and criticize so that the review does not look like a panegyric. The player is beautiful both outside and inside, and this "beauty" vividly carries in the ears of the afflicted.

    Seriously, the device has a charming perky sound, a chic screen, a stylish and durable case, it can be an external DAC, connects via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth - this is where the grouchy word is inserted here?

    And, of course, the price of the novelty, which is only $ 399, is pleased. In my opinion, every dollar of this amount iBasso DX160 fulfills with interest!

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. fokta
      "The DX220 model is based on two DAC chips: CS43198 from Cirrus Logic."
      I believe you mistype this...

      Great review btw
      fokta, Oct 28, 2019
      HansBarbarossa likes this.
    3. JuanLuis91
      Nice review! How compared with DX120 only in sound quality?
      JuanLuis91, Oct 29, 2019
      HansBarbarossa likes this.
    4. bukumurah
      Brother Hans, great review! Could you tell me about the pairing of dx160 with the PP8? I am currently using Cayin N5iiS with them but I wish for more treble extension (airy sound).. thank you!
      bukumurah, Nov 2, 2019
      HansBarbarossa likes this.
  2. Whitigir
    Dx160! Another Affordable player by Ibasso
    Written by Whitigir
    Published Oct 8, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Affordable, beautifully built, powerful output, Android O, frequent firmwares, sound quality punches above it price
    Cons - No charger in the box and only 32gb internally
    Ibasso DX160


    So, for the year of 2019, Ibasso has been very busy to keep up with the enthusiasts forever demanding for higher quality music player, and at an affordable pricing. Ibasso while keeping themselves busy, still have not forgot about all of their line up and previously released products, such as Dx100, Dx150, Dx200....etc
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    As everyone have known, I sometimes review to share my thoughts about a product, and so here, I have had a pleasure to have a DX160 review unit sent to me. I am not affiliated to Ibasso, and having a review unit just simply means that I am going to share my honest impression to everybody. In no way a review unit would influence my views of it performances and impressions over it.
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    The DX160 was not clarified as a successor to Dx120, but I think it must be a sibling or side-step as the next up in-line would be Dx150 with Amp modules design, where as DX160 remains to be a complete unit. Also, the DX120 is pure Mango-OS where as DX160 is Android. Aside from all of the disclosed and advertised specifications, I do not have insider information regarding what other components being used, such as OP-amps or DSP-IC....etc....the one thing do caught my attentions still, would be the dual (2X) implementations of CS43198. This is the top tier chip from Cirrus itself and is with Master-Hifi technology which is the revered technology for CSS-DAC IC as a brand. Then it has 6.4 Vrms output at 4.4mm balanced, with an impressive 130Db Dynamic range ? Which is much higher than the DX220 and the Amp8 itself which is 125Db!


    So, here is something that everyone would stare into.


    Amp8 is listed at 125Db Dynamic range vs 130Db Dynamic range on DX160

    Amp8 is listed at THD of 0.00023% and crosstalk is -113db VS DX160 at 0.00022% and crosstalk is -125Db

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    Yes, I would have to agreed that the specifications above do put the DX160 over the DX220 and Amp8 configurations. So, let put that into perspective, DX228 is a $1,200 device, and with that you will get a top tier player from Ibasso with module design and Discrete Amp 8 module which utilize discrete transistors array for amplification purposes. The DX220 also comes with Mango-OS, and I am not sure how important the OS is to anyone else, but to my own personal experiences, the OS itself is as vital as other components, which also including the implementations, the choices of DAC-IC, and the DSP-IC. Now, in contrast, the DX160 is an $399 player with more impressive specs, compacts, and runs on Android alone without Mango-OS.
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    Now, do notice that IBasso is similar to other Android based DAP, that they do not have google playstore out of the box, you will have to work around with APK files, or thank you to Ibasso, and you have APK-Pure installed and ready to be your Hacked through app market. Also, Native DSD256 !!!
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    DX160 also have 4 color of red, blue, silver, black for your choices. The price is sitting competitively toward IPod Touch 256 Gb for $399. The differences is huge though as the DX160 support MicroSD but internal Rom is only 32Gb. I would think it could make a big gift for anyone on this year holiday if they are thinking of IPod touch.


    The most noticeable different here when compared to dx220 is that the digital filters on dx160 will prove to be a much easier observation between each of them. This is another extreme case of differences between DAC-IC, and there will only be 4 filters. My favorite is the Filter #3 as it prove to have more bass textures, the blooms, the articulations, the separations between instruments, the layering, and the expansive soundstage with vocal sit just right. Where as #2, the Bass is more speedy, tighter, less bloom, with vocal a little too forward with the extensions being a little harsh. It does seem to me that the #1 is the #2+ and #4 is #3+. So the real differences that can easily observe is 2 and 3

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    Design: the DX160 is very compact, and out of the box will come with a clear TPU case. The screen is full-surface, coated and with high resolution display. It is very similar to DX220 display on sizes and resolutions, so I guess 1080 resolution. Sitting side by side to DX220, the 160 is thinner by a bit, and smaller by a small bit. It also weight almost a slight bit less....unless you are picking it by single digit % similar to how you are judging the sound impressions, otherwise I would think they both are similar with a thinner form and different output, headphones ports arrangement. The 3.5mm now will have SPDIF as digital out and lineout as much as single ended phone out, with all that available at a flip of a finger by dropping down menu from the top.
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    It will come with usb A to UsB C cables, screen protector as well, but no charger. It is compatible upto Quick charge 3.0 or so. So, make sure you are using quick charge charger to have better charge time.


    Out of the box and the taunted output, could it drive full sizes headphones ? I quickly grabbed my 4.4mm HD800S and Aiva, and it can drive these 2 just fine. It isn’t as powerful as the DX220 and Amp8 In driving Aiva, a planar headphones
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    The sound signatures: the DX160 is tuned toward a more musical and entertainment sound signature with a very focused into the inner resolution density and energy. It does not lack the quantity of sub bass, mid bass, or any specific spectrums at any given specific segments. However, the one thing that it does lack is the ability to render the room ambient and reverberate. Also on the same scale of perspective, the DX160 also can not render the depth and airiness between instruments layering as well as the DX220 and Amp8 But not too far behind, and for this point alone, it is enough to say $399 is hardly believable. DX160 is neither a warm nor bright signature but can also hardly be said to be neutral or natural as I would say that it slightly tilt the scale toward warmer side. That is why I would say that it is musical and entertaining. It is also a more vocal focused, forwarded kind of signatures. I would recommend anything with a little lay-back in the mid to pair with it. I found the IER-Z1R and M9 a perfect pairing for it.



    Specifically the bass is pretty plenty in quantity, the articulations and the different segments of bass from sub-bass, mid-bass, and upper bass are all presenting with a more focused toward the timbres inner resolutions. This focuses will be carried on from low into upper mid spectrum of the whole player itself. It does not dive as deep as DX220 and Amp 8, and the extensions of the bass isn’t as satisfying as DX228. The DX228 have a very High quality bass that not only accurate, layered, articulated but also a very precise ripples of it extensions and energy.
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    The mids spectrums on the DX160 is more forward, and together with that focus as mentioned above, the DX160 has a unique presentation of artist Vocals. It is forward, focused, with great extensions and breathy. The rendering of a forward, focused vocal and wider soundstage but a slightly lack in depth when compared to the DX228. The DX160 perhaps set itself a part clearly from the bigger brother DX228. Even with very detailed vocal and mids, the dx160 ability will stop here as the Skillful Vibratos from artists and singers in Jazz and Ballads ...etc.., it will not be fully exposed with the continuity, fluidity that the dx220 may bring.


    Please notice that I use DX228 as a mark of comparison as I love Amp8 and it carries an almost similar signature to DX160 as both carry on with the musicality but DX228 is more of an accurate presentation as mentioned above where as DX160 is into rendering and revealing as much as possible without the aims toward the accuracy of little details on room ambient and imagines cues.


    However, the DX160 does not sound like any $399 device at all. For instant, when compared to NW-ZX2, an android based Walkman from Sony, the DX160 has a lot more power, a much more modernized Android, a powerful processor, and everything is so smooth, snappy on the UI. The timbres density, the very blacked out background is all presented to me as an upper tier device when compared to this player that I have around here. Even-though I am not into Mid-tier DAP as I used to anymore, the experiences that I have accumulated over the year would put the DX160 instantly into the category of the least 2X of it price or $799 and up for example. Also, I can not say that it can be competitive to higher-end devices such as DX220, just because it stops at fully exposing the finesse of the music textures on each instruments, vocal, room ambience.....But it definitely punches above it MSRP, It simply is because the soundstage, the details, the energy, the vocal, the power to drive headphones, the snappy UI....etc....as a package, the DX160 is very cheap for it price. In fact, I don’t really understand how Ibasso could pull this off ?
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    The trebles on the DX160 is totally different than the Dx228, and similar to the bass, the trebles does not reach as high or extend much with the timbres rather thick and vivid where as Dx220 with Amp1 MKII or Amp8 both have a better reach and extensions, together with the metallic sparkling. Though, here is the tricky parts. The Dx228 can reach that much in both end of the spectrums. It exposes the limitations of the Dx220 and Amp8 in stock form with “grainy trebles” for any very picky ears, and revealing gears such as Hd800S , which lead me into EX modifications. The DX160, however, does not reach as well, but it also masks the graininess on both end of spectrums very well, which yield a very pleasurable experiences in trebles and bass presentations. For this trick alone, I totally understand why people would put the DX160 on the same tier and side by side to the Dx228. To my own opinions, I think Ibasso has implied too much limitations onto the Dx228 executions of a top-tier products. The EX modifications is totally a proof of this, and this makes me very excited for the Dx220 MAX!


    So, what about the battery on both ? They have similar battery playtime and charge with quick charge. I use IPad 29W and Anker quick charge, they work flawlessly on both.
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    Finally, what is the verdict ? The DX160 sounds too good for its price, and practically is very capable with quick charge, DSD256 ....etc...and especially for anyone who is a fan of Cirrus IC itself, you would found yourself being fascinated by the DX160. Under different perspectives, it can be said to be very close to Dx228 in performances as it would depend on many different factors such as what you are pairing with and what you desires for from a player. However, under my very specific perspectives That judges toward the finesses, the accuracy of timbres, room ambient, imagines, soundstage rendering...etc..just to name a few....the DX160 is really what Ibasso Named it out to be, a high quality digital player. The DX220 and Amp8 does execute those criteria better to my own opinions.


    Therefore, what do I say here ? If I have to make a purchase, with a very limited budget, I would be totally satisfied with DX160 performances right next to Dx228, and at 1/4 the pricing VS the performances between both, the decision is easy. But if Sound quality is all that I am chasing for, with the ability to swap out modules, I would rather grab a Dx228 and then also apply EX modifications toward it. Better yet, I would wait for DX220 MAX! But again, if portability form is a huge determination remark, then DX228EX is ways too hard to beat. The DX160 would make an excellent choice for a holiday present which is affordable, and yet performances can be said to be punching above it prices.


    Lastly, a kind reminder is that my experiences, and observations as much as preferences and genres are different than you and others. So, please, find a way to try out the dx160 before you make your final decision.

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    1. View previous replies...
    2. Chimmy9278
      I like the DX200/DX220 for you can swap out amps on those guys, apparently none of that on this new machine.
      Chimmy9278, Oct 23, 2019
    3. Whitigir
      That is correct @Chimmy9278 . A product of a company should not cannibalizes itself. If you want replacement amp modules, there are dx150/200/220. The 220 still have an edges over sound performances when compare to dx160, plus it also have amp modules.
      Whitigir, Oct 23, 2019
      buonassi and Cat Music like this.
    4. cschau81
      Hi bro @Whitigir , do you need a special setting to play it in 4.4 bal or it's just plug and play (am planning to get a 4.4 cable)? Will DX160 give a much better listening when 4.4 is used? and will the battery drain faster when 4.4 is used (i currently just uploaded the latest fm 1.02.109 with 3.5 SE the battery is great!) thanks heaps in advance and so sorry for the newbie questions :)
      cschau81, Nov 5, 2019