Select Comparisons

iBasso DX150

$499

Technical

In a way the DX160 is the successor to the DX150, however, it is not a like for like replacement due to the amp card system compatibility on the older model. If you are invested in the amp card system I would say hold onto the DX150 since the DX160 is a fixed amp DAP.

However, if not, and the budget is tighter then the slimline and cheaper DX160 is the way to go, especially if you are not keen on amp cards. The DX150 is a much bigger and chunkier DAP with slightly slower performance numbers and slightly shorter battery life at around 10 hours compared to 13 on the DX160.

Recent firmware updates means the DX150 is running Oreo but it is not as smooth or as snappy as the DX160 Oreo experience despite both having 2GB of RAM. The screen is also smaller at 4.2″ and not 1080P capable at 350dpi 16m color 1280 x 768 px resolution. The DX150 Bluetooth capability is also lower at 4.1 compared to the DX160’s BT5.0.

DAC & Amp

The DAC is a dual 32-bit AKM AK4990EQ implementation which is a fun sounding but fairly old chipset with lower noise ratings than the DX160’s Dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 implementation. Whilst it will match DSD and PCM rates of DSD256 and PCM 384kHz 32BIT the DX150 will not natively decode MQA and I am fairly sure it does not have bit-perfect output.

The DX150 amplification is card dependent so you can get some beefy cards that outperform the DX160 fixed amplification. Out of the box, the DX150 AMP 6 stock card total Vrms is slightly lower than the DX150 at 4.8Vrms balanced and 2.4Vrms unbalanced compared to 6.4Vrms and 3.2Vrms for the DX160. On higher loads, the DX160 amp will be more powerful.

iBasso DX150

Performance

The short summary is that the DX160 technically more resolving, with better instrumental separation and superior dynamic range to the DX150 with its stock AMP card. That midrange will positively leap out at you when pairing with the DX160 whereas the DX150 has a smoother less impactful sound.

The DX150 has more low-end body and bloom and will sound a bit more planted than the DX160’s slightly more linear delivery. However, the DX160 with the likes of the Solaris and Tux 5 sounds more impactful, tighter and faster. Nuanced detail is just that bit more noticeable in instrumental texture on the DX160 pairings whereas the DX150 plus stock amp card is perhaps working its even harmonic texture to produce a slightly softer tone.

The DX150 AK implementation is also a lot more centered in its midrange delivery with a bit more vocal delivery whereas the DX160 expands out a lot more. It sounds wider and airier which helps with that better instrumental separation.

FiiO M11

$449.99

Design

One of the strongest competitors to the DX160 and also slightly more expensive at $449.99 compared to $399 for the DX160. There are some big differences in these two DAPs which should make it fairly easy to choose which one you want outside of sound preferences.

The FiiO M11 is bigger and heavier than the DX160 at 211g compared to 178g. It has a slightly bigger but lower quality 5.15″ screen with 1440×720p compared to the 1080p capable 5″ screen. It looks more like a thick smartphone than a DAP. Battery life on both is similar at 13 hours each.

Both use rotary dials for volume control with single slot microSD capable external card features. The two DAPs also have 32GB onboard memory though the M11 has slightly more available space at 26GB compared to 24GB. Both have physical playback control though the DX160 has individual buttons and the M11 uses rockers.

I prefer the layout of the DX160 playback buttons, it feels more intuitive. However, the left-sided placement of the M11 playback and volume is much easier for me to use one-handed.

FiiO M11

OS

The OS is an issue here and iBasso are shining with the DX160 despite neither having Google Play out of the box. The M11 uses Android 7 and the DX160 uses Android 8 so we are talking a much older OS. Also, with the recent update, you can now download and install Google Play APK on the DX160 and it works just fine. Whereas with the M11, you need a custom ROM to access Google Play

On the plus side, the M11 is the fastest DAP on the market today and the highest-rated Antutu benchmark at double the performance of the DX160, (and all other DAPs). It has a top-notch Samsung Exynos 7872 processor and 3GB of RAM. That is hard to beat at this mid-fi price point and is a tool almost for gaming as much as audio.

Technical

The M11 uses a dual AK4493EQ which is a pretty decent midrange DAC chipset. I am not sure if it is above or below the DX160’s dual CS43198 but judging by the numbers the decoding capability for traditional files is the same at DSD256 and PCM 384kHz 32 BIT. What the M11 cannot do is decode MQA natively nor is it capable of bit-perfect output which the DX160 can do. Bluetooth is also limited to 4.2 only compared to Bt5.0 on the DX160.

On the amplification side, both are capable of balanced and balanced with 3.5mm TRS and 4.4mm, however, the M11 has an additional switching 2.5mm TRRS balanced output.

In terms of output power and noise, the DX160 is superior with a better mW load on high loads and significantly lower THD+N numbers. You can hear the difference also on sensitive IEMs with the M11 prone to higher background hiss and noise and the DX160 delivering a very black background.

FiiO M11

Performance

The M11 has a bit more emphasis on the upper mids and treble. The DX160, by comparison, is more balanced, more linear, wider in staging but not dead neutral with a little bit of warmth in our tested IEM timbre. That warmth is not overly done but the more neutral positioning of the treble means the DX160 timbre sounds the more liquid of the two, especially for vocals and percussion.

The M11 contrasts this with a bit more sparkle and definitely teases out a more forward sounding treble compared to the DX160 when using the Campfire Solaris and Noble’s new Tux 5. Percussion has more presence, high pitched vocals may have more presence also. In short, the presentation is a little more weighted upper mids to treble and a bit drier odd-harmonic dominance on IEM timbre.

I would shy away from the Solaris, Tux 5 and Andromeda with the M11. My own preference is the DX160 simply because the treble balance on these IEMs is just right. The M11 tends to produce a less forgiving overtone and tips the balance more to the sibilant peaky side of things.

The DX160’s slight treble fade or more neutral overtone keeps the balance just right on these 3 IEMs and makes it a more matchable DAP for me.  I would pair the M11 more with slightly less efficient IEMs with a dark or warmer overtone such as the Earsonics Grace or the Lark Studio LSXC.

HiBy R5

Design

The R5 is THE alternative choice here if you are shopping at $399. There are a lot of similarities but also enough differences to present a clear choice. In summary, the R5 is smaller and possibly the more powerful DAP whereas the DX160 is the more aesthetically pleasing and qualitatively more refined sounding DAP.

SO yeah, pocket rocket is what I called the R5 and it is the smallest DAP at this price point with Android Oreo 8 inside. However, its 720p screen might be too small to easily use Android compared to the very smooth and very legible 1080P screen of the DX160.

Both have 2GB of RAM inside but the R5 still uses the Snapdragon CPU which is slightly faster in our App boot-up tests compared to the DX160. The Antutu numbers favor the DX160 though when switching that screen down to 720P.

Battery life is a bit better on the R5 at 18 hours compared to 13. A smaller screen helps in that respect as well as a slightly larger battery inside. The DX160 does have more onboard memory at 32GB compared to just 16GB on the R5. Both DAPs have a single microSD card slot for expansion.

iBasso DX160

OS

The two DAPs are on par for software with both using Android Oreo and both capable of MQA (via the latest firmware) and bit-perfect output. HiBy’s own app is excellent, possibly more refined than Mango for my money. Both have brilliant DSP and EQ controls with HiBy opting for a more user-friendly MSEB macro-control and the DX160 using a more technically refined but still easy to use PMEQ system.

The R5 does have an out of the box edge with Google Play pre-installed and the DX160 using APK Pure. However, the latest firmware from iBasso will allow you to install Google Play Apk and you are on par once again with HiBy.

Technical

These two DAPs both use dual CS43198 DAC chipset implementations so in terms of technical capability they decode to the exact same DSD256 and PCM 384kHz 32BIT level. Both can also do native MQA and bit-perfect output with USB-DAC and OTG capability.

The amplification stages do differ though direct comparison on specs is difficult. Yes, both DAPs have 3.5mm TRS and 4.4mm balanced outputs but the R5 seems to have more power on lower loads and the DX160 excels on higher 150-300Ω loads. The DX160 may well be the more headphone friendly of the two.

The DX160, however, has the more refined amplifier with lower THD+N noise and better SNR numbers and will deliver the blacker background though to be fair, both are excellent with efficient IEMs.

HiBy R5

Performance

The DX160 delivers a far more immersive presentation than the R5 with similar IEM pairings. However, I want to be clear that the statement does not mean the DX160 is more intimate sounding because it is not.

The R5 is in actual fact the more intimate of the two with a more forward vocal presence and perhaps a slightly weightier low-end on the likes of the Solaris and Cayin’s new YB04. The better immersion comes from the level of resolution, dynamic range, and imaging precision. You simply are more aware of what is happening around you on the DX160.

This is not at the cost of any vocal presence or any midrange suck out. The R5 and the DX160 do excellent vocals with a relatively smooth sounding timbre. However, two things. The R5 vocal presence sounds slightly further forward on our tested IEMs and the second, the staging is not as expansive as the DX160. That results in your ear focusing more on the vocal performance alone on the R5 whereas on the DX160 you hear that plus what is happening around you.

Neither DAP has aggressive treble and both are not as bright or as sparkling as the FiiO M11. If anything, the DX160 has a slightly better level of odd-harmonic control but it is subtle more than obvious. As a result, the general timbre on both are more on the natural side with excellent control on sibilance.

Overall, pick the R5 if you like a little more low-end weight and a bigger vocal focus. Pick the DX160 if you want something a shade more neutral and a more complex and wider soundstage.

iBasso DX160

Our Verdict

The DX160 completes what I now call the triumvirate of killer mid-fi DAPs that I have heard this year including HiBy’s R5 and FiiO’s M11. Importantly, each DAP offers something unique and they all differentiate themselves from each other quite easily. Together, they set a difficult bar to overcome for new entries sub-$500.

For the R5, it is that pocketable size, excellent amping power to a certain extent, their excellent HiBy software and long battery life. The M11 delivers on speed, the fastest DAP out there and the widest range of analog connections.

And the DX160? Sound quality. I can wax lyrical about it being the prettiest looking DAP with that lovely 1080P screen being a perfect match for Android Oreo but the real payoff is that reference-like hi-fidelity reference sound and the balanced output black background. It is ridiculously good at $399. With the addition of Google Play by proxy on the latest firmware, my hesitations on the DX160 OS are also vastly reduced.

The choices of DAP are great these days, especially at this price point. The DX160 offers 1 of three DAPs I highly recommend, especially if a reference sound is your thing.

DX160 Specifications

  • Housing material: alloy-aluminum
  • OS: Android 8.1
  • DAC: Dual CS43198
  • Output Ports: 4.4BAL, 3.5PO, 3.5LO, SPDIF, USB output
  • Screen: 5.0 inch 1080*1920 Sharp OnCell Full Screen
  • CPU: Octa-Core
  • Memory: 2G RAM, 32G ROM, Micro USD card
  • Wi-Fi: 80 2.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4Ghz/5Ghz)
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery: 3200mAh Lithium-ion polymer battery
  • USB connector: Type-C (charging and data transfer)
  • Quick Charge: QC3.0, PD2.0
  • Audio Formats Supported: MQA, APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF, DXD, CUE, ISO, M3U, M3U8, MQA
  • Size: 113mm*69mm*15mm
  • Weight: 178g
  • Average Play Time: 13 hours (The playtime varies with different resolutions and headphone/IEM loads.)

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
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46 Responses

    • Indrajit

      Hi. I use the X5iii(line out) via a Magni 3 amp+hd598 headphone. Following the above configuHiration(line out+amp) does the X5iii then have a sound quality as good as Ibasso DX160?

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      • Marcus

        The main coloration will come from your amp but you will notice the performance upgrade on the DX160 over the X5iii with a superior line out voltage output so it sounds more dynamic and punchy.

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  1. gtj

    Hi Marcus.
    Any chance you have a pure sound quality comparison with the BTR5?
    I know one is a DAP and the other a BT receiver but judging by your review, the sound signature might not be far off between these 2.

    Many thanks!

    Reply
      • gtj

        May I also ask if you had a chance to compare with any of the ZX2 or ZX507?

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      • gtj

        No problem Marcus. Your review is by far the most informative and complete for this player. I will hopefully have a chance to try it soon. Keep up the great work.

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  2. Felipe

    Buenas me gusta leer para aprender…tengo unos sennheiser momentum 3 cual me recomendarias.gracias

    Reply
  3. Marc

    A bit vague but what may I expect SQ wise coming from the DX90 or the iFi Micro iDSD (OG)? I use the Sony IER-M7 for reference!

    Reply
    • Marcus

      A more refined timbre, that means a wetter treble and not as dry but still very nicely extended. Also much better staging. That’s going on memory of the DX90 and not actual side to side.

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  4. Alfred

    Hi Marcus!

    As I almost decided to get the hiby r5 because of the power you’ve said, this ibasso dx160 caught my eye because of the sound sig which I prefer the more neutral and complex.

    My only question is this, will the ibasso dx160 sound better or will deliver the power on the he 4xx or still the hiby r5? Thanks for the help. I like this site for the audiophile reviews. More power!

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Actually, if you check the final page of this review there should be a comparison with the R5. Now I do not have a 4xx but the R5 performs better on low impedance and the DX160 on higher loads around 150-300 ohms. I think the 4xx, being planar, is low ohm and therefore the R5.

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      • Alfred

        Yes I saw it in the last page. Well it’s just ibasso looks and sounds better overall but to power this planar is important for me so I go with the r5 instead. Thanks Marcus!

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      • Don

        I have both, and they’re almost identical sound wise. But the dx160 has a serious wifi connectivity issue. If you’re a streamer, buy the r5. Once I walk out of the room with my router, the ibasso drops the wifi so I cannot stream. All my other players, laptops, tablets, smartphones have no issue. Even my fiio M6 that costs 129.00 streams from anywear in my hone(2400 Sq ft).

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    • Marcus

      Its load handling is better weighted to 150 and 300 though to be honest if you want good handling for 300 ohm I always pick a desktop solution.

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      • Sid

        Thanks a lot for the reply Marcus. I am going to pair it with My Fiio F9 pro, M50x and HD598.
        How much of a difference will it make when I compare it with my existing setup Of iPhone XR+Fiio Q1MKII VS iBasso DX160?

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  5. Jim

    Hey! Great review. Which IEM in a price range from 300-450 would you recommend as best pairing with DX160 ?

    Reply
  6. Simon

    How come that all recent ratings of different products (IEMs, DAPs, Amps etc,..) had a major score drop? Not long ago some products had much higher scores after you published reviews, and those scores are much lower now…

    Reply
    • Marcus

      A couple of reasons.

      The first is we introduced a new scoring system for 2020. You can read more about it here – https://headfonics.com/how-we-score/

      Second, all previous editorial scores up until Jan 2020 are gone, instead, we have readers vote only. Those scores vary depending on what the reader votes on. You are welcome to vote also.

      Editorial review scores from us apply to the calendar year only and will be applied to the awards at the end of the year. Readers can vote at the same time on 2020 reviews and we have 2 scores – us and you guys. Once we hit 2021 we reset for another year and leave the readers votes to stand for 2020, just as we have done for 2019.

      Finally, readers can now submit their own reviews below in the comments section. Readers can score just like us and that will have an effect on the final readers’ score.

      Hope that helps.

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  7. richard

    Hi Marcus,
    In the sound quality department, since you have listened to the Dethonray DTR1, which one do you think is better ?

    Thanks a lot

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Oh, good question, one I will address in the DTR1 full review coming soon. I am pulling from aural memory but the DTR1 might be the better with headphones.

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  8. Shahram

    Do you prefer the Ibasso DX160 over the Hiby R6 Pro? In terms if Sound Quality or user experience?

    If I could get both for the same price is the R6 Pro a no brainer? I see that the Ibasso has a lower noise floor, but the R6 Pro has more power (which I don’t really need).

    Thanks!
    Shahram

    Reply
    • Marcus

      No issues there, enough power and a clean sound signature. Anything for personal preference can be tweaked in the PMEQ.

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  9. Ali

    Thanks for the review.
    I’m using Campfire Solaris and Hifiman Edition X V2 with DX150/AMP7 at the moment. I’m concerned about the EMI noise when using with Solaris. Does the 4.4mm output completely eliminate this noise? And if so the level of background hiss from the balanced output is comparable to DX150 SE or higher?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      The EMI is not ever-present and more related to unbalanced or 3.5mm than 4.4mm when it does happen so it should be fine.

      As per page 3 under Matchability:

      “Efficiency
      Outside of the EMI issue outlined below the DX160 is a very quiet DAP and marginally lower on hiss than even the HiBy R5 with sensitive IEMs. I am impressed, much more so when you compare how hissy the M11 can be with the likes of Solaris, Andromeda, and Hum’s Pristine. The DX160 is also quieter than the DX150 before it and on par with the DX220 with AMP1 MK II.”

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  10. Michael S

    what do you recommend , ibasso dx160 or sony nw zx300??
    actually i am not using any streaming music services , if only lead into sound quality which one is better??

    Reply
  11. Martin Leschinski

    this was the review I waited for – thank you
    the R5 is on it´s way and now have to get the 160 for my own comparison

    Reply
  12. Martin

    Thanks for pointing out that those poweroutput specs of iBasso are just marketing-blabla. I had the DX220 and DX200 and both of them were not able to drive Cans like an HE1000 with dynamic music material (Nik Bärtschs Ronin). The Volume was always maxed out and had me still longing for more volume. The Fiio M11 on the other hand performed like the DX220 (eventough the power output rating would tell you a different story) and is pretty honest about its own power output. So don’t expect the DX160 to have more power for harder to drive headphones. That is not a strong suite of those DAPs.

    Reply
    • Marcus

      It is a tricky one to really put a finger on accurately as most of the DAP firms never put up like for like. It took me some time to get to the core answer.

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  13. Michael

    Nice review! Speaking of sound, how would you compare DX160 and DX150 with AMP7/8?

    Reply
    • Marcus

      Never actually tried a comparison with the DX150/AMP8 as its stuck on the dx220 most of the time. Will try it for sure but it might be a while before I get around to it sadly – busy season :)

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