The iBasso DX160 is a smart, capable DAP at a great price point. It couples great quality with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that will be familiar to any smartphone user. In addition to the playback features, the DX160 features a number of customization and configuration options that help it stand out.
The Build and Design
The DX160 is a sexy little player. Available in a variety of colors (I picked Red), it has a sleek metal casing, and the front is nearly all screen with a small bezel. You can output via 4.4mm balanced or a “standard headphone jack” – 3.5mm unbalanced – which can be switched via the software to a 3.5mm S/PDIF out. For hardware controls, you have a play/pause button, forward and back buttons, and a volume wheel. The buttons all have a nice, solid feel to them.
In the box you also get the necessary USB-C charge cable, a couple screen protectors and a transparent case. The case is nice, but I found it took away from the tactile feel of the buttons and sometimes interfered with the operation of the volume wheel. The touch screen feels responsive and I didn’t notice any input lag.
iBasso uses Android as the base for its interface and provides their proprietary Mango Player which can handle a variety of formats and encodings, including FLAC, MQA, and other Hi-Res audio options. Unlike some other DAPs, like Astell&Kern’s lineup, iBasso’s current line includes an app manager: APKPure. You can use APKPure to download streaming apps like Spotify or Qobuz, as well as any number of other Android apps.
Within the Mango Player you can manage various DAC and Amp settings. I should note that any settings that you edit apply to the whole DAP and not just playback through Mango itself. The DX160 includes Low and High Gain modes (Low being preferable for most IEMs and High for over ear headphones), L/R Balance controls, Parametric and Graphic Equalizers, and four Digital Filters to adjust various aspects of the digital to analog conversion. In addition, you can deactivate the DAC through Advanced settings and use the Device as a standalone headphone amp.
The output is clear and balanced. Compared to its bigger brother the DX220, the DX160 is a little less coherent and smooth, but compared to the standard output from a handful of smartphones I tried out, and various iPhone DACs, the improvement in sound quality is absolutely revelatory.
I tried out the four Digital Filters and eventually settled on “Fast Roll Off” for my primarily rock/alternative/indie driven playlists. It felt “tightest” to me, but the “Slow Roll Off” added some warmth to the bass. It’s definitely worth experimenting to find the right balance for your headphones and music preferences.
The Bottom Line
From an interface and usability standpoint, I absolutely love the DX160. If you just want to live in the Mango Player, you can do that, but you can also easily download any number of apps to listen to music, use it as a multipurpose smart device, or, with the right apps, use it to create your own music. In terms of playback and audio quality, while this doesn’t hold up to some of the more expensive offerings from iBasso or Astell&Kern, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a device in this price range that is as powerful and versatile as the DX160.