iBasso DX160 Digital Audio Player Review

 

 

 

iBasso DX160 Digital Audio Player Review

 

The Beautiful Synthesis of Sound and Design

 

Introduction:

iBasso is Chinese company that is specialized in the Portable Audio products such like Digital Audio Players (DAP), Portable Amplifiers and In-Ear Monitors.

The iBasso DX160 is the latest Digital Audio Player of the company that was announced in August 2019 and features the CS43198 dual DAC Chip, 5.0” Sharp 1080P resolution touch screen, Quick Charge: QC3.0/ PD2 / MTK PE+, Two-way 5.0 Bluetooth, Android 8.1 and many more.

Official Webpage: http://www.ibasso.com/

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank iBasso for providing me the DX160 as review sample. I am not affiliated with iBasso beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product!

 

 

Purchase Links:

The iBasso DX160 is available for USD $399.00 under the following link;

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The box of the iBasso DX160 is relative small in size compared to previous models like the DX200, DX220 and DX150. The box is wrapped with a cardboard in grey color which features the iBasso brand logo and some details like model description.

This box is containing the following items/accessories;

  • 1 x iBasso DX160 Digital Audio Player
  • 1 x USB Type-C Charging/Data Cable
  • 1 x Transparent Silicone Case
  • 2 x Screen protective films
  • 1 x User Manual
  • 1 x Warranty Card

 

 

 

Design, Buttons and Build Quality:

The iBasso DX160 has a quite different design language compared to previous models like the DX200 and DX150 and is closer in look to the DX220 with its massive 1080P full screen.

The DX160 is quite lightweight (178g) and has a compact from factor with dimensions of 113mm x 69mm x 15mm and will be available in four different colors which are blue, red, silver and black like my review sample.

On the front of the device is the 5’’ 1080P resolution (1080*1920) touch screen of the company Sharp with a pixel density of 445PPI. It offers a very nice screen to body ratio and vivid color reproduction with a SRGB gamut of 95%.

The corners of the screen have this nice 2.5D curve effect.

At the back side of the DX160 is a glossy plastic surface that features the iBasso brand logo, the DX160 model branding and some industrial certificates (CE, FCC, etc.).

On the top of the device are the power button and the USB Type-C Digital Out and Charging port.

At the bottom of the DX160 chassis are the 4.4mm TRRRS Pentaconn Balanced out and the 3.5mm headphone jack which shares the Phone Out, Line Out and SPDIF outputs.

On the right surface is the volume control wheel and the physical next/fast forward, play/pause and the previous/rewind buttons. Here is also the Hi-Res Audio label.

The left side of the DX160 features the single micro SD card slot for storage expansion which supports at least memory cards up to 2TB (MicroSD Cards in SDHC & SDXC format).

The main frame/chassis of the DX160 is made of metal and has a black painting. The device is very well made and doesn’t show any imperfections like gaps, burrs or any openness.

 

 

Some Technical Specifications:
  • Operating System      : Android 8.1
  • CPU                            : Octa (8) Core
  • RAM                           : 2GB
  • ROM                          : 32 GB
  • Screen                        : 5.0” 1920*1020 (1080P) Sharp Full Screen
  • DAC                            : Dual CS43198QFN DAC Chip
  • Analog Outputs          : 3.5mm Output for LO, PO & SPDIF, 4.4mm Balanced Out (TRRRS)
  • Digital Out                  : USB Type-C
  • Wi-Fi                           : 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4Ghz/5Ghz)
  • Battery                        : 3200mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Battery Life                 : up to 13hours Single-Ended (Normal Gain)
  • Size                             : 113mm x 69mm x 15mm
  • Weight                        : 178g

 

 

Supported Audio Formats:

The iBasso DX160 supports almost any traditional and modern audio format including MQA. The list of supported formats is as follows;

MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, CUE, ISO, M3U, M3U8, MQA Native DSD: DSD64/128/256

 

 

1. Hardware:

The iBasso DX160 is a well engineered Digital Audio Player (DAP) with some nice hardware specs to achieve a Reference type High Quality Sound.

 

A) DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):

The iBasso DX1600 utilizes a Dual CS43198 Chip of the company Cirrus Logic which is a next generation, low power audio DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) with a low battery draining capability.

The CS43198 features a high impedance of 600 Ω, a 130 dBA dynamic range, a THD+N rating of -115 dB, and inter channel isolation of >110 dB.

Source: https://www.cirrus.com/products/cs43198/

 

B) USB DAC:

The DX160 supports USB DAC function and can work with your Windows PC, MAC Computer and Linux Computer. A MAC and Linux device doesn’t need any driver installation, while you need to download and install the USB DAC Driver for your Windows PC.

The USB DAC mode supports PCM32bit/384khz and native DSD up to x256

 

C) CPU/RAM/ROM:

The iBasso DX160 features an 8-Core (Octa-Core) ARM CPU, 2GB’s of LPDDR3 type RAM and 32GB of ROM. The 8.8GB of the internal storage are reserved for the Operating System (OS) while 23.2 GB’s are free to store your music files or for the installation of third party applications.

You can also expand the storage capacity via MicroSD cards with a capacity up to 2TB.

 

 

D) Wireless Connectivity:

The iBasso DX160 has a build in Wi-Fi antenna which supports the 802.11 b/g/n/ac protocols and 2.4GHz + 5 GHz frequency standards.

The iBasso DX160 supports two-way Bluetooth 5.0 audio transmission and has native LDAC and Aptx support, which means that you can send and receive your audio from/to external devices like Headphones/Speakers/Phones/Tablets etc.

 

E) Outputs:

The first visible difference compared to models like the DX150, DX200 and DX220 is that the DX160 doesn’t support replaceable AMP Modules. The second difference is that the DX160 has a 4.4mm TRRRS Pentaconn Balanced output instead of the more common 2.5mm TRRS balanced out which has been used in previous models.

The output power of the 4.4mm TRRRS Pentaconn out is quite impressive with an output voltage of 6.4Vrms.

 

Here are some technical specifications;

 

3.5mm single ended output:

  • Output Voltage: 3.2Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~40kHz +/-0.15dB
  • S/N: 125dB
  • THD+N: 0.0004% (no Load, 2Vrms) 0.0007% (32Ω Load, 2Vrms)
  • Crosstalk:-115dB

 

4.4mm balanced output:

  • Output Voltage: 6.4Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~40kHz +/-0.15dB
  • S/N: 130dB
  • THD+N: 0.00022% (no Load, 3Vrms),0.00022% (32Ω Load, 3Vrms)
  • Crosstalk:-125dB

 

Line out:

  • Output Voltage: 3.2Vrms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~40kHz +/- 0.15dB
  • S/N: 125dB
  • THD+N: 0.00035% (no Load, 2Vrms)
  • Crosstalk: -113dB

 

Battery Life:

The iBasso DX160 features 3200mAh build in Lithium ion polymer battery that supports QC3.0, PD2.0 / MTK PE+ quick charging options.

The built in battery offers according to iBasso specs up to 13 hours of operating time. My test results over the 3.5mm Unbalanced (TRS) out varies between 12 – 12.5 hours with normal gain, %50 volume, screen off with Flac 16bit/44.1kHz & IT04 IEM, while the 4.4mm TRRRS Pentaconn out is showing in same conditions a battery life that varies between 7 – 8 hours.

 

2. Software / GUI:

The iBasso DX160 is a Digital Audio Player with Android OS same as the DX220, DX200 & DX150 which is slightly customized by the iBasso software team. The actual Android OS Version is 8.1 Oreo and the speed of the GUI is snappy.

The Android OS of the DX160 doesn’t support Google Services like the Play Store, Play Music, etc. but it comes with two preinstalled “Play Store” alternatives which are CoolApk and APKPure applications that we have seen on the DX220.

These Google Pay Store alternatives giving you the choice to install online music services (Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc.) or any other third party application of your liking.

The DX160 came also with some pre-installed applications like MangoPlayer, Calculator, Clock, File Manager, Gallery, Video Player, Chrome Browser and music service called VIPER HiFi.

On the home page of the DX160 is a nice widget of the iBasso exclusive Mango Player application. The widget features the album cover, song title, remaining time and buttons like play/pause, previous/rewind & next/fast forward.

The Android OS offers some nice and pretty familiar benefits like the “Top Navigation Bar” for a quick access to your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. In addition there are also some helpful shortcuts like PO/LO/SPDIF out switcher or Battery Saver (switch on/off).

On then bottom of the home screen are the classical navigation button like the back (triangle), home (circle) and task manager (square).

The settings menu is quite simple and many of us who are using or have used an Android device will feel very familiar with the menus and UI of the settings menu.

The Audio Settings Menu is showing some settings like Low & High gain, Digital Filters, Channel Balance, etc.

The 4 Digital Filters of the DX160 are Fast Roll Off, Short Delay Slow Roll Off, Short Delay Fast Roll Off and Slow Roll Off.

The Mango Music Player application looks similar to those of the DX220 and has a nice looking UI design with some settings shortcuts Gapless (On/OFF), Gain (Low/High), Play Mode, Equalizer (supports Parametric EQ), L/R Balance, Digital Filters etc.

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • DAP’s                         : iBasso DX160, iBasso DX150, Cayin N5II
  • IEM’s                          : iBasso IT04, iBasso IT01s, Final Audio B3, Final Audio B2
  • Earbuds                     : Rose Masya Pro, Astrotec Lyra Collection, Ourart ACG

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • Rush’s – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Photek – Hidden Camera (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
  • Chopin – Nocturn No. 20 In C-Sharp Minor (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Fazıl Say – Nazım Oratoryosu (Live) (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Tom Player – Resonace Theory (16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Portishead – It cpuld be Sweet ((Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Opeth – Damnation (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Rush – Leave That Thing Alone (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Dave Gahan – Kingdom (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
  • Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Wav 16bit/44.1kHz)

 

 

 

 

The Sound:

The iBasso DX160 is a Digital Audio Player (DAP) that has a slightly warmer than neutral tonality which shows a transparent, musical and balanced presentation.

The DX160 has an energetic and deep bass character, a midrange with a clear, musical and warmish tonality which also slightly more forward positioned than the other frequencies and a treble range that has good extension, brilliance and detail retrieval.

 

PS: The background of the DX160 in combination with the IT04 was almost pitch-black with zero level of hissing.

 

The Bass:

Subbass:

The iBasso DX160 has en energetic subbass presentation, which shows good depth extension and quantity for a DAP in this price category. The intensity of this area is neither too little nor too much and is sufficient for most genres. For example, the subbass depth, rumble and quantity in songs like Portishead’s “It Could Be Sweet” or Massive Attack’s “Angel” is on a pretty good level.

The subbass of the Dx160 is as fast which is the reason why no songs sound dull or hollow, while the tonality is slightly warmish and soft.

 

Midbass:

The midbass region of the iBasso DX160 has a soft, strong and fast tuning which shows a good level of slam and impact. The midbass region is as efficient as the subbass area and doesn’t show any negative situations like a midbass hump or mixings; on the contrary it has a clear, detailed and transparent character.

The midbass tonality is slightly warm, pretty musical, neither too thin nor too thick in its presentation.

Instruments like cross drums or trumpets have a good level of intensity and speed, while the contrabass sounds clear, detailed and fast.

The Dx160 is a DAP with a bass tuning that is in general slightly above the reference level. The bass are fast, clean and detailed, while the quantity and intensity could be slightly high for analytical listeners, and slightly less for bass-heads.

Especially the speed, separation and control of the bass are admirable.

 

The Midrange:

The midrange of the iBasso DX160 shows a slightly warmish, pretty clear and a little bit of coloration in its tonality. The midrange is slightly more forward oriented in its presentation compared to its bass and treble region.

Remarkable is, that both male vocals and female vocals are equally successful while listening to the DX160. The timbre of instruments on the other hand is quite clear, soft and musical.

 

Vocals:

The DX160 is a highly controlled, detailed, and lively sounding DAP that succeeds in any frequency group. The same applies to the vocals.

The male vocals have a good lower midrange depth and unlike most DAP’s, the male vocals have the same emphasis and success as female vocals. They are presented in a slightly bold, lively, clear and pleasant tonality.

Vocals like Dave Gahan, B.B.King, Eric Clapton and Jeff Buckley to Mikael Akerfeldt, James Hetfield and Joey Belladonna are presented in a very successful and pleasant manner.

Female vocals on the other hand have a pretty transparent character due to the strong upper midrange intensity. They are airy, slightly warm, clear and vivid in tonality.

Female vocals don’t sound sharp or ear piercing because of their strong but controlled upper midrange emphasis. It is quite enjoyable to listen to female vocals, while the performance in terms of extension, detail, transparency and emphasis is ways above average.

The iBasso DX160 is a highly successful Digital Audio Player, which is detailed, vibrant and enjoyable from Alto female vocals up to soprano female vocals.

 

Instruments:

The instrument presentation of the iBasso DX160 is musical, soft and slightly warm (close to neutral) in its tonality. The fact that instruments do not sounds too dry or sterile is one of the positive aspects of DX160.  They are sounding pretty lively, clear and detailed, while there is no big space or very neutral air between the instruments. The separation of instruments and vocals is quite successful without to be congest. The presentation of instruments is neither thick nor thin.

Guitars are slightly warm, pretty transparent and a bit bright towards the upper regions and showing a soft and fatigue-free tonality. Especially the guitar performance of Eric Clapton in its “Unplugged” album is very pleasant to listen to. Other instruments like the piano are a bit soft and fairly bright, without to show any unwanted mixings or sharpness.

 

 

Upper Midrange:

The iBasso DX160 has a lightly soft, quite transparent and close to neutral upper midrange tonality that sounds pretty balanced and controlled to my ears. They are no negative situations like sharpness or over brightness, it sounds pretty controlled with almost any track, which makes it to an ideal DAP for long listening periods.

The DX160 performs very well in terms of control, detail and clarity when the instruments play at high distortion. For example, the cymbals, drums, vocals and guitars are very clear and controlled in the upper midrange passages of metal music. The fact that guitars sound so clean and controlled in moments of distortion is rare to found in a device of this price level.

Guitars and guitar solos played with high distortion in Megadeth’s “Sweating Bullets”, Slayer’s “Angel Of Death” and Rush’s “Leave That Thing Alone” do sound quite clear, controlled and detailed.

Other instruments like violins are slightly bright and have a good level of extension, while pianos do not show any loss of upper midrange emphasis or extension.

 

 

The Treble:

The iBasso DX160 has very well tuned treble range, which is neither too high nor too low in terms of quantity. The treble range is slightly soft, pretty controlled and a bit shiny, with an accentuated and very spacious/airy presentation.

The treble range doesn’t show any roll-off, especially the lower and the middle of the treble range is a slightly more upfront in its presentation compared to the upper treble region. Here is a controlled decrease towards the upper treble range.

The iBasso DX160 has powerful, pronounced and lively treble presentation that exceeds its price range and can easily compete with DAP’s up to the 700 USD range.

The Hi-Hat hits in metal music are pronounced and are pretty smooth and lively in its tonality. Crash cymbals on the other hand are sounding pretty controlled, fast and detailed.

Genres like EDM/POP/Rap/Hip-Hop are quite enjoyable and pleasant to listen to, due to the soft and fatigue-free treble tuning of the DX160.

The cymbals in jazz music are as distinct as those in metal music, with a slightly soft, full and controlled presentation. Everything is so natural!

Violins, flutes and other woodwind instruments in genres like classical music are crisp, clear, slightly soft and very pleasant to listen to, with a good level of separation.

 

 

The Soundstage:

The soundstage width and depth of the iBasso DX160 is pretty similar and has a sufficient performance for this price range.  The stage is pretty airy and spacious and shows a good level separation while listening to instruments and vocals.

 

 

Some Short Comparisons:

 

iBasso DX160 versus iBasso DX150 (with AMP6)

The iBasso DX150 has a warmer tonality with a fuller midrange, and shows a higher bass quantity/intensity and smoother treble presentation compared to the DX160. The DX160 on the other hand has a more neutral, mid forward and treble intensive tuning.

The iBasso DX150 stands out with its punchier bass response and fatigue free treble presentation, while the DX160 offers a more transparent, mid-focused sound character with better treble sharpness and extension.

The overall detail retrieval of the DX160 is better compared to the DX150 with the AMP6 module. The DX150 shows less clarity and treble intensity compared to the DX160.

 

 

iBasso DX160 versus Cayin N5II:

The iBasso DX160 has a fuller and slightly warmer tonality compared to the Cayin N5II and is superior in terms of musicality and bass response. The Cayin N5II sounds more neutral and a bit dry in direct comparison to the iBasso DX160.

The midrange of both devices is upfront while the DX160 has the upper hand in terms of overall midrange detail retrieval.

The upper midrange of the Cayin N5II is more pronounced but a bit sharp compared to the DX160 which offers a smoother and more musical presentation.

The treble range of the iBasso DX160 is superior to the Cayin N5II in terms of extension and detail retrieval.

The iBasso DX160 has the upper hand in terms of overall detail retrieval and musicality.

 

Conclusion:

The iBasso DX160 is a compact and ergonomic device with a gorgeous looking screen that has a very nice screen to body ratio, which offers a sound quality that stands out ways above its price rage. The well tuned deep bass, the musical midrange character and the strong & detailed treble presentation will satisfy most users who want to spend less than 500 bucks. The fast UI, 4.4mm Balanced out and great battery life are also some remarkable features of that Digital Audio Player.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Midrange Clarity & Musicality
  • + Bass Response
  • + Great Treble Detail and Extension
  • + Good Battery Life
  • + Compact Deign, Gorgeous Screen, Fast UI
  • + 4.4mm TRRRS Out
  • + MQA, Quick Charge, LDAC

 

  • – No 2.5mm Balanced (only 4.4mm TRRRS)
  • – The RockChip SoC has its limits

 

 

 

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