iBasso DX160 (2020) vs Sony NW-ZX507 detailed comparison
Sep 29, 2020 at 4:26 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 26

seanwee

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Ibasso DX160 (2020) vs Sony NW-ZX507 (V1)

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Comparisons were done with mango mode on the DX160 and direct source mode on the ZX507. Both using 4.4mm output and normalised to the same loudness.

Starting off, tonality wise they are both neutral with a hint of warmth. Both have excellent detail retrieval I've come to expect from midrange or better daps.

Dynamics and tonality go to the DX160 with It presenting notes with more authority and power while fleshing out instruments in a more natural way. Almost like the ZX507 has a more forward presentation.

The largest difference between the two is the soundstage presentation. The soundstage of the DX160 in mango mode has a holographic quality that is present only in some upper midrange or better daps like the LPG, SP1000, SP1000M, M11 Pro and N6ii with E01 Module. The ZX507 doesn't come close to the DX160 in this aspect and sounds just mediocre in comparison.

Instrument separation and overall transparency of the soundscape compare similarly with the DX160 taking the win easily.

The ZX507 wins in bass control sounding a bit tighter and more controlled in the rumble.

In conclusion, I'd say its not worth the hype. Perhaps the people who were singing praises about the ZX507 have not heard newer daps in the midrange to upper midrange like the M11 Pro, Hiby R6 Pro or DX160 before.
 
Sep 29, 2020 at 4:29 AM Post #2 of 26

seanwee

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Being quite underwhelmed by the ZX507's showing, I went to the ZX500 thread and they suggested several tweaks to make the ZX507 sound its best. And so i made another trip to do a second comparison.
 
Sep 29, 2020 at 4:32 AM Post #3 of 26

seanwee

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Ibasso DX160 (2020) vs Sony NW-ZX507 (V2)

To shake things up I decided to sit down, listen and get used to the sound of the ZX507 for an hour while doing all the optimisations suggested to me prior to doing a comparison. I also experimented with every sound setting to get the best sound possible on the ZX507.

I was also allowed to disable all apps and run all optimisations as detailed in https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-sony-nw-zx500.914486/page-299#post-15823504 as long as I did a factory reset after.

Comparisons were done with the DX160 in mango mode, High Gain with minimal phase fast roll off and the ZX507 with Direct sound Off, High-Res streaming mode On, DSEE-HX On, Battery Saving Off, low gain on the latest firmware at the time of writing.

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Some size comparisons

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Same thickness and length but the DX160 is about 20% wider. The Sony feels denser though as its only 14g lighter (178g vs 164g) despite the size difference. Both feel very good in the hand.

Starting with the bass the ZX507 still has an edge. While warmer, it's still tighter and better controlled with a real addictive quality to it.

Mids wise where the ZX507 is warmer and softer, the DX160 goes for a more detailed transparent and reference sound. They were more of a match with Direct sound On.

Comparing the highs was very interesting, I had to go back and forth to confirm what I was hearing. While the ZX507 was warmer and softer, the highs were somehow harsher. The DX160 was more effortless and refined. Better treble control on the DX160 perhaps. As a result detailing on the highs was superior on the DX160.

Soundstage wise the ZX507 is definitely wider than before albeit less transparent due to the tonality changes. Here I though the ZX507 would be on par with the DX160 this time around. But as I switched to the DX160 I realised the gulf was still there. Yes, the soundstage of the ZX507 is large in the traditional sense but the DX160 is in the class of holographic sounding daps. Soundstage is wider, deeper and has an all around transparency and clarity to it, ie holographic. Enough said.

Instrument separation and layering compare similarly but overall transparency has taken a step back compared to my v1 comparison due to the changes in tonality.

So how have my impressions changed? Not too much really.

The new firmware + optimisations resulted in a wider soundstage and a warmer and smoother sounding dap but transparency also suffered a bit.

I do get the appeal of the ZX507 however. As audiophile daps converge towards being more reference sounding, its good that Sony continues to make warmer sounding daps. Bonus points for being able to sound reference as well with Direct sound mode, albeit not to the same level as other daps in its price class.

Overall, if you're after a warm sounding DAP with lovely and addictive bass, get the ZX507. But if you're after a larger and more holographic soundstage and a more reference sounding dap as a whole, the DX160 will deliver what you're after and then some for half the price.
 
Oct 2, 2020 at 12:26 AM Post #4 of 26

seanwee

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Oct 2, 2020 at 8:51 AM Post #5 of 26

Earbones

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Meh. Comparing the two, I am definitely not hearing what you're hearing. Glad you dig the DX160, though. Different ears for different peers. Cheers! :beerchug:
 
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Oct 2, 2020 at 8:54 AM Post #6 of 26

seanwee

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Meh. Comparing the two, I am definitely not hearing what you're hearing. Glad you dig the DX160, though. Different ears for different peers. Cheers!
Mind you I'm using mango mode. The DX160 does not have the holographic soundstage when in android mode.

Impressions will also change depending on the iems you're using. I tend to use very transparent and clear gear as well as listen at louder volumes so the differences will be accentuated.
 
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Oct 2, 2020 at 9:13 AM Post #7 of 26

Earbones

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Mind you I'm using mango mode. The DX160 does not have the holographic soundstage when in android mode.

Impressions will also change depending on the iems you're using. I tend to use very transparent and clear gear as well as listen at louder volumes so the differences will be accentuated.
I listen with a gamut of gear. Way too many headphones and IEMs, ha ha.

I'm not a fan of the Mango mode. Reminds me of the Ultrasone parlor trick... The transparency and detail of the iBasso seems slightly boosted to me, honestly.

Try listening to a super organic album, like Macy Gray's Stripped, and tell me what you think. There's no doubt the Sony is the warmer DAP, but for me, the Sony handles that album with more neutrality than the iBasso, which seems to be pushing things slightly. The reverb of the bass, the fingers on the frets...

In any event, the DX160 is certainly a great DAP... I just prefer the 507 for most things.

I will say the iBasso does very well with clean, spare albums with very tight tolerances. It sounds great with my reference for that sort of album, Steely Dan's Aja. Ditto Angles by the Strokes and Panorama by the Cars. Although the Sony handles the low end thump of those two albums a little better.
 
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Oct 2, 2020 at 10:28 AM Post #9 of 26

seanwee

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I listen with a gamut of gear. Way too many headphones and IEMs, ha ha.

I'm not a fan of the Mango mode. Reminds me of the Ultrasone parlor trick... The transparency and detail of the iBasso seems slightly boosted to me, honestly.

Try listening to a super organic album, like Macy Gray's Stripped, and tell me what you think. There's no doubt the Sony is the warmer DAP, but for me, the Sony handles that album with more neutrality than the iBasso, which seems to be pushing things slightly. The reverb of the bass, the fingers on the frets...

In any event, the DX160 is certainly a great DAP... I just prefer the 507 for most things.

I will say the iBasso does very well with clean, spare albums with very tight tolerances. It sounds great with my reference for that sort of album, Steely Dan's Aja. Ditto Angles by the Strokes and Panorama by the Cars. Although the Sony handles the low end thump of those two albums a little better.
Gotta love that liquid ZX507 bass :)

And having heard much better DAPs than the DX160, if this level of transparency and detail is boosted to you you probably won't enjoy higher end DAPs like the DMP-Z1, Paw Gold Touch and SP1000 which go a step further in that regard.
 
Oct 2, 2020 at 3:52 PM Post #10 of 26

Earbones

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Gotta love that liquid ZX507 bass :)

And having heard much better DAPs than the DX160, if this level of transparency and detail is boosted to you you probably won't enjoy higher end DAPs like the DMP-Z1, Paw Gold Touch and SP1000 which go a step further in that regard.
Perhaps I didn’t articulate what I meant well... I didn’t find the iBasso particularly transparent (or detailed) per what was actually recorded on a given track. I find mango mode similar to Ultrasone’s trick with soundstage... they definitely have something going on, and it’s interesting, I’m just not sure it’s particularly accurate.

Remember, “transparency” isn’t really an easily quantifiable audible phenomenon.. much has been written on this. But for the sake of discussion, if we proceed with our listening from the base-line ideal that what we are hearing should be as close as possible to exactly how it was recorded, then some gear can do too much as far as transparency is concerned. When a track that was not particularly transparent in the first place (any old Spectre-produced wall of sound track for instance) becomes very transparent, I do not believe that is a good thing... in the same way I don’t believe something that makes the opening drum beat of Magical Mystery Tour sound like deep club bass is a good thing. Impressive, sure. But accurate?

Detail retrieval is more easily quantifiable than transparency, and the iBasso certainly has some tricks there as well, but again, I’m not sure it’s reference. I can’t put a finger on it, but it seems to pull things out of the mix that aren’t supposed to be that identifiable. Take Touch from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories... there is a slightly off high hat strike that sounds like a “tink” instead of a “tsss” around the 3:07 mark. It’s noticeable on any DAP. And the reference presentation is mid-mix. On the iBasso, it’s pulled forward. And that’s impressive... The effect is that one thinks “Wow, this thing is really detailed!”... but I don’t think this is particularly accurate in terms of how the track was actually recorded. I think the Sony’s presentation of that anomaly is more realistic, even if at first listen, it’s less impressive.

At the end of the day, we are talking about infinitesimally small differences, however. The iBasso is a great DAP, and while I prefer the Sony, massive sound differences are simply not present between the two. Hey, if we’re honest, massive sound differences are not really present even between the lowliest entry-level DAP and the most staggeringly costly end-game DAP... assuming headphone/IEM drivability is equal. As the old adage goes, 95% of it is your headphone or IEM, and that goes for listening out of a reference DAP or a laptop jack.

Anyway, it’s cool you’re stoked on the minor audible differences that the iBasso displays, and it’s cool that I get off on the minor audible differences that the Sony displays. How boring the world of audiophilia would be if everybody responded to the same thing the same way? :beerchug:
 
Feb 2, 2021 at 10:46 AM Post #11 of 26

ehjie

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--
 
Mar 9, 2021 at 3:46 AM Post #13 of 26

seanwee

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I would like to see if there is any similar comparisons for iBasso DX160 and FiiO M11 Pro (purely on sound signature/quality). Or is there already one?
I haven't done a side by side comparison as detailed as this one for the DX160 vs M11 Pro

But know this, when I was looking for a new dap, the M11 Pro was my first choice, the DX160 was a compromise I made because of the M11 Pro's size and weight.
 
Mar 9, 2021 at 4:05 AM Post #14 of 26

rolandhoo

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I am about to make a final decision on either Fiio M11 Pro or iBasso DX160. The price difference in my country is about USD200 and i have no chance to audition both DAPs (merely based on reviews). Most people say in general that DX160 sounds warm and musical where the M11 Pro sounds bright and analytical. Battery performance on M11 Pro should be better than DX160 (probably not by a huge margin).

Portability, BT, Wifi streaming are not my priorities but sound signature, UI and battery life are.
 
Mar 9, 2021 at 4:13 AM Post #15 of 26

seanwee

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I am about to make a final decision on either Fiio M11 Pro or iBasso DX160. The price difference in my country is about USD200 and i have no chance to audition both DAPs (merely based on reviews). Most people say in general that DX160 sounds warm and musical where the M11 Pro sounds bright and analytical. Battery performance on M11 Pro should be better than DX160 (probably not by a huge margin).

Portability, BT, Wifi streaming are not my priorities but sound signature, UI and battery life are.
The M11 Pro is an all around improvement over the DX160, I particularly liked its dynamics. Soundstage and detail are also improved on the M11 Pro. Android operation wise the M11 Pro is sure to be a lot faster and smoother than the DX160. Where the DX160 is usable with a few occasional lags the M11 Pro is smooth.

And I wouldn't put it as warm and neutral vs bright and analitical for the DX160 and M11 Pro. More like warmish neutral and reference neutral. More detailed =/= bright and analytical, i feel like a lot of people misattribute the two
 

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