The iBasso DX160 deviates from the company’s trend in two key areas. 1st, unlike the DX150 and the DX220, it’s non-modular. There’s no switchable amps, here. 2nd, its voice is less warm and more analytical.
It’s not outright analytical. I tend to associate that with dryness and thinner notes, which I would not attribute to this DAP. But there is a perceptible decline in warmth when compared to some of iBasso’s other players. The DX160 leans a little bright, but does so with caution. There’s a liquidity which smoothes out any roughness, allowing the music to flow free and beautiful, never cold or strident.
The DX160 showcases a crystalline rendering that is breathtaking. It’s so clean, clear, and transparent. Micro details pop with vigor. Instruments are separated by a deep, black atmosphere. Powerful dynamics and bodied, energetic notes create a lively, vital listening experience that never fails to captivate.
The soundstage is expansive. Easily among the widest I’ve heard. Its depth is remarkable, as well. The holographic dimensionality of the elements is good for the price, but I wouldn’t put it at top tier quality. Resolution, however, is top tier. Shape and definition, texture and separation are conveyed with a mastery that belies its mid-range status. In other words, the DX160 punches well above its weight.
Cayin’s N5ii ($349, Review HERE) possesses a close match to the DX160’s tone. It’s a fine mix of clean and smooth, clear and bodied. The DX160 simply does it all so much better. It’s even more transparent and detailed, more vivid, with greater power and dynamics. It also drives a wider range of headphones, showing that Cayin has a lot of ground to regain with their next mid-range DAP.
The iBasso DX150 ($399, Review HERE) is a little harder to compare to… even though I already did. The challenge lay in all the AMP modules available, each containing their own sonic signature. So let’s assume you’re using the stock module for this player, AMP2, I think it’s called. The DX160 is less warm, issuing a clearer, more detailed sound. Its soundstage is wider, and it does a better job of separating and placing the elements on that stage. They are both punchy, dynamic players, yet somehow the DX160 feels more so. Except in the bass region. The DX150 strikes harder with those low notes. You’d have to throw on something like the AMP8 for me to choose the DX150 over the DX160, and by that point you’re spending a lot more money.