Firstly, I’d like to thank Beyerdyamic for the review sample.
Before I begin, I should state that the perception of an IEM's sound quality is highly dependent on fit, which in turn relies on ear anatomy, the seal provided by the tips, and other variables unique to the user. As always, your mileage may vary.
BUILD AND ACCESSORIES
The design of the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE is understated if not a bit plain, though I find the contrast between black and silver appealing. Build quality is excellent. The housings appear to be made of aluminum, and the strain reliefs are well designed. I like the fact that there is a tactile indicator between left and right channels, but the small dot on the inside of the right strain relief is a bit odd considering that many manufacturers place the bump on the left side. I also like the discretely placed Beyerdynamic logo on the flat cables near their entrance into the housings. I’m not usually a fan of flat cables, but the cables here are rather narrow in thickness and are easy to handle. I really like the extension cable set up here as the length is perfect with the extension when using a player in my front pant pocket, and without the extension is good for use with a shirt pocket. The connectors on both the earphones and both sides of the extension cable are sturdy but not bulky, though I would prefer a bit more strain relief on the 45 degree plug on the extension cable.
Accessories include a nicely-sized semi-hard storage case, a share adapter with which you can plug in a second pair of headphones, a shirt clip (which was already attached to the cable), and a nice assortment of tips, which include medium Comply foam tips and 7 types of silicone tips consisting of 5 sizes of single flange tips, one pair of UE-like double-flanges, and a pair of triple-flange tips similar to Etymotic’s smaller frost tips.
Just as alluded to by the note adhered to the cable of the Beyers, I found the tips to alter the sound quite a bit. The already-equipped medium single-flanged tips sounded decent, though I found over time that as the tips softened up, the bass response became a bit too overwhelming, while the multi-flanged variants to constrict the soundstage a bit too much to the point of being a touch claustrophobic. I tend to avoid Comply tips with dynamic IEMs as they tend to muddy up the midrange. I finally settled on the small silicone single-flanges, which are the second smallest of the set.
The bass response of the DX 160 iE is relatively strong, with emphasis on the deep bass. The texture here is quite good, with rumble being some of the strongest I’ve heard and felt on a non-basshead earphone. The bass tends to stay out of the way of the mids, but this is when using the small tips. The medium tips do result in stronger bass response at the expense of midrange clarity.
The mids remain decently transparent, and are neither forward nor recessed. Vocals are presented clearly with a hint of warmth, and are positioned inside the head with minimal forward projection. Outside of the warmth, I find the midrange has little “sweetening” of voice, unlike the mids of the Sennheiser CX 985. On the other hand, the mids of the Beyers don’t come across as dry-sounding as the RHA MA750 can be.
The treble of the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE isn't a stand-out but does little wrong; it's reasonably articulate and detailed with good extension, but is not harsh. There is a little bit of elevation in the lower treble to make the earphones sound more open, but the Beyer rarely produces sibilance, an issue I’ve had at times with the aforementioned Sennheisers and RHAs.
If there is one weakness of the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE’s sound, that would be the soundstage. As touched upon earlier, tips do affect the soundstage, with the single-flanged tips being the best bet for the largest stage size. The stage seemed to be the largest with the medium tips, but I found the imaging to spread the left and right channels far too much, creating a “three plane” soundstage since the DX 160 iE’s don’t image depth well. Although the second-smallest tips weren’t as in-the-head as the double- and triple-flanged tips, the stage was still on the small size. In comparison, the RHA MA750 sounds a bit larger, and the Sennheiser CX985’s soundstage is huge, wide-open, and nearly (open-air) earbud-like, relatively speaking. To the DX 160 iE's credit, the Beyers are a less fatiguing listen (outside of the sub-bass).
Although I would prefer a better soundstage performance, I do feel that Beyerdynamic has created a very solid, well-rounded earphone in the DX 160 iE. The accessories are good, the build is excellent, and the sound is proficient enough to be a noticeable upgrade to the stock earphones of music players and smartphones. I feel the addition of a mic-enabled model (MMX 160 iE?) would be popular choice for the mobile-phone-tethered, music -addicted crowd.
Many thanks to Beyerdynamic for this opportunity for me to review their latest 'Flagship' In Ear monitors. I have not reviewed anything before, so this will be my first time, please be gentle!
Packaging & Accessories
I won't bore you with more photos of what has already been seen. The packaging is very well though out, not too large.
The supplied accessories
7 Pairs of different Sizes/Styles of Silicone eartips, very comprehensive set of tips, I did find myself trying combinations of 2 or 3 tips to get a good fit.
1 Pair of Comply foam eartips, nice touch.
Splitter/adapter, to allow earphones to share a source, useful little accessory.
Detachable extension cable, well not really an extension cable, its really kind of needed to attach to any player unless of course you keep it in a top pocket.
Hard Carry Case, nice case, with a small webbed area for accessory storage.
Cable clip, another useful item, I found I had to use it to help combat micro-phonics.
Fit & Comfort
I did have some issues with the fit, It took me a while to get it right, and had to use 2 different tips, seems my ears are different sizes or the tips just have different properties prevent a nice fit, I've not had this issue with some other brands of tips, and Comply's for obvious reasons are much better in this respect.
Once I had sorted the fit, the earphones were very comfortable, no fatigue after 2 hours, though when I didn't have the fit quite right the outer silver part of the housing did dig into part of my ears.
I did experience a lot of noise from the cables, especially (and obviously) when rubbing against a zipper, but even against a cotton polo shirt, the cable clip helped heaps in this regard, all manufactures should supply these if they don't already.
For this review I used my AK-100 with no external amplification
For reference my non headphone listening setups are;
My HiFi setup built up over 20+ years;
Linn Unidisk 1.1 - CD/DVD/SACD Player
Linn Kisto - Pre-Amplifer
Linn Klimax Chakra Twin - Power Amplifier
Linn 242 - 5 way Loud Speakers
My computer setup is
JRiver MC 19
M2Tech HiFace 2
Genelec 8020 Studio Monitors
FLAC tracks of the following;
Brendan Perry - Ark
Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
Camel - Stationary Traveller
Suzanne Vega - Tales From The Realms of the Queen of Pentacles
Aimee Mann - Whatever
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Level 42 - Level 42
To me this is all about did I enjoy the music the earphones were producing?
I have also been listening to the same tracks over the past few weeks on my home HiFi or my computer setup.
Wintersun from Brendan Perry, I hadn't heard much of Brendan Perry, he is recently new to me, but I really like this track, and was not disappointed with the sound on this track, nor in fact the whole album, I really enjoyed the whole album with these.
Dark Paradise from Lana Del Ray, again great control, this is also a bit bass heavy, but they seemed to control it much better than the last track, vocals are great here too, drums are particularly clear also.
Stationary Traveller from Camel, now this is a very different track, kind of like some of Mike Oldfields work, mixed with Queen, lots of great electric guitar work, but also pan pipes and synth's, however was pretty enjoyable
Song of the Stoic from Suzanne Vega, I haven't listened to Suzanne Vega for a very long time, until recently and I enjoy this album, I found some of the vocals to bloom (merging into the instruments) and just becoming a wall of noise, but on the whole pretty decent.
Jacob Marley's Chain from Amiee Mann is a great track and the earphones performed great, giving me plenty of feeling, fingers on strings, sounds from the triangle were really clear, tiny bit bass heavy on the acoustic guitar , but the track is that way.
Daft Punk, such a great album (if you like this kind of thing !!) admirable performance again from the earphones, Give Life Back to Music & Get Lucky felt great, didn't seem to lose me, kept me loving the tracks.
Level 42, Not bad for a 33 year old album, I've always loved the bass guitar on this album and I wasn't disappointed here either.
I really like these earphones, I found them very controlled, occasionally too much even woolly bass, but it can be corrected somewhat with equalisation, the mids & high frequencies were very good also, I did find highs a tiny bit lacking on very energetic or bass heavy tracks though.
Overall I am very impressed, for the asking price which is currently $119 these (for me) are well worth the money, for some music they are a very close with some of the more expensive offerings from other manufactures.
I would like to thank Beyerdynamic for selecting me as one of the few lucky Head-Fiers to sample and review the DX160 iE. Below are my honest impressions of the Beyerdynamic DX160 iE earphones. Although this is my first review on Head-Fi, I have been enjoying music through numerous IEMs that have been lauded by members of the Head-Fi community since joining this forum in 2007. I have experience with IEMs with retail prices ranging from ~$50 upwards to ~$400, including the Nuforce NE-7M, Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3’s, Hifiman RE-Zero, Hifiman RE-262, Dunu DN-1000, Sennheiser IE-8, Audio Technica ATH-IM02 and JVC HA-FX850.
· -Adapter for plugging in 2 3.5mm into 1 source (nice touch as these are the first IEMs I have tried that include such an accessory)
· -Zippered carrying case with a small meshy pocket that works great for storing extra tips. It's lined with soft and smooth material for safe storage.
· -7 pairs of silicone tips including 5 single flange, 1 biflange, and 1 triflange
· -1 pair of medium Comply foam tips
· -Detachable extension cable
The DX160iE’s have a simple and understated aesthetic with its black housings and silver trims that I am quite partial to. The overall build quality is very good. Prior to this, I have not owned/used a headphone with flat cables, but my oh my is it convenient! The flat cable design is tangle resistant and makes it easier to just pull out and plug in with less fuss and frustration with untangling the cable. The cable terminates at a 45 degree angle, which I prefer over a straight termination design. There is also a small protruding dot on the right earbud, making it easier to discern right from left.
Fit is quite a subjective measure, as it depends largely on ear anatomy. I personally did not get a good seal with any of the included silicone tips. Of the included tips the Comply foams gave me the best seal. I have experimented with other tips as well, and UE900 medium single flange silicone tips gave me the best seal overall, followed by the white/clear Hifiman large biflange tips. However, this is not too surprising as the UE900 tip is my preferred tip of choice for most of my IEMs.
The housings are quite light in weight and I can wear them straight down without any issues. Longest listening session that I have listened to these IEMs were 2-3 hours, and I did not find them uncomfortable when using tip that fit well.
I would highly recommend giving proper burn-in time before assessing its sound quality. I found them to be unimpressive right out of the box, but the sound improved significantly after burn-in. Also, all of the below impressions are based on the sound quality I experienced using UE900 tips.
The DX160iE’s have an overall dark sound signature with a hint of warmth. Bass extends down quite low, is nicely textured, and has a slightly forward presentation. There is an impressive amount of mid-bass punch, which I find slightly more prominent than that of my HA-FX850, a headphone that is considered by many to be no slouch in the bass department. Despite the prominent bass quantity, it is well controlled and not at all boomy or overpowering. The mids seem slightly recessed, possibly due to bass quantity and forward bass presentation. This is exaggerated especially when listening to bass heavy tracks at lower volumes. Kicking the volume up to my normal listening levels, vocals are moved a bit more forward but are still slightly recessed. At even higher volumes, my qualms with the recessed mids seem to go away (I prefer my mids to be more forward and aggressive). The mids are warm, smooth and decently transparent. Both male and female vocals are delivered quite well (although I would prefer more airiness), while electric guitars are nice and crisp. Treble is nicely detailed, but rolls off at higher frequencies. I had no problems with sibilance or listening fatigue during longer listening sessions. The soundstage is above average in width, but could use more depth. I found the imaging and separation to be quite good, and I had no trouble following individual instruments during more complex passages.
The DX160iE sounds very good straight out of the headphone out of my iPhone 4s. However, I love the synergy with my iPhone4s ==> Fiio L2 LOD ==> Leckerton UHA-6s mkII. With the latter setup, vocals are no longer recessed and the bass is deep and punchy resulting in a very fun and engaging sound.
The DX160iE is an IEM that does many things right without any major flaws. It has a fun and engaging sound with good bass extension and punchiness. The build quality is very good and comes with a good amount of accessories. At its asking price of $120USD, it makes for a solid product, especially for those seeking an IEM that excels at EDM.