iBasso Digital Audio Players

iBasso is a Chinese manufacturer of Digital Audio Players, IEMs and other portable accessories. They’ve been around a long time and have a pretty strong following with their unique players that have module amplifiers.

This is the place to discuss their products!

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And a good place to start that is with @antdroid’s comparison and impressions of the iBasso DX220, DX160 and DX150, here.

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Nice article Anthony! I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how the DX160 compares to your R5 when it comes to ergonomics and UI. I think you covered the sound differences already.
(Btw, on the photo of the 4 DAPs I think you misidentified the DX150 with the R5 in the caption.)

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Hi,

Actually it should be DX150 instead of the DX160 in that photo! :slight_smile: Hopefully @taronlissimore or @Torq can fix that for me, and also update the store listing link for the DX160 when that comes available.

Anyway, yea I didn’t go into too much detail on comparing the R5 to the DX160. I was going to post that on this thread instead as I wanted to focus on the iBassos in the article.

First thing, I am planning on ordering a DX160 after having spent time with it – the main reason is exactly what you just asked – I like the ergonomics of it!

The DX160, despite having a large screen, is actually really easy to hold in the hand since it is essentially bezel-less. The volume wheel is a nice touch and is perfectly placed and is really the biggest thing I’ve missed since using the R5 as my daily DAP – owning A&K, Fiio, Pioneer, and Onkyo DAPs with wheels previously.

The DX160 is also a little thinner than the R5 and much thinner than the SR15 and ends up being just a little bit thicker than a cell phone or approximately same size as a cell phone with a TPU case on it.

The screen on the DX160 is bright and vivid, and while the R5 also has a nice screen, the 160 looks more appealing, and that could be due to the larger size.

Now as far as UI goes - the R5 wins it for me. The stock android experience is just more familiar and tidier. I am not a fan of iOS’s layout where app icons are on the homescreen. My Android phone and the R5 is void of apps, except the nav bar at the bottom where I have my app links to Poweramp, the menu, and Spotify on the R5. With the DX160 and all iBasso’s there is no android launcher menu so every app is on the desktop. The quick fix for this is to install a new launcher so not the end of the world.

I prefer Hiby Music over Mango, by a long ways. The only winning edge is Mango has Parametric EQ and Hiby doesn’t really. It’s got the Mage Ball EQ which itself is nice. It’s all a moot point though, since I use Poweramp and Spotify for my main offline and online players, respectively.

Now, I’ve been browsing the HeadFi thread and there’s two things that made me sway my path towards the DX160:

  1. Lurker Firmware – this is mod that adds magisk and system-less root to the DX160 and allows other features.

  2. Google Playstore - with the latest firmware, you can install Playstore from APK Pure without the Lurker Firmware. (the firmware has it built-in).

Those two things could make the DX160 top the R5 for me. I didn’t try either on this loaner unit since I don’t own it, but I plan on buying one from as soon as it becomes available on headphones.com and get going on modding it. I love doing this type of stuff so it ends up being an experimental device for me. I did this with the Pioneer XDP-300R as well.

The R5 - well it has a smaller desing and feels really nice in hand and fits easily in my pocket, more easy than the DX160. The screen is smaller so typing is a little more challenging, but still easier than the 3.2 inch screen of the SR15 and Fiio M9. The R5 is a much warmer experience, and laid back tuning. It’s definitely more musical sounding and there’s just something about it that brings me back when I A-B the two.

It’s not the same type of warm experience as the A&K SR15 but it’s almost there.

The DX160 provides are more neutral reference, while the R5 is a warmer engaging tuning. They compliment each other and you can pick your poison that way or just get both. :slight_smile:

Not sure what I’ll do for the long term, but for now, I am planning on playing with both for different situations until I declare a true winner in the future.

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Wow thanks for such a complete reply. I’m enjoying the heck out of my iBasso DX120 and though I’m not looking to upgrade just yet, maybe by mid-2020 I will get that itch again. But I do try to keep up with the latest models coming out and there’s been a bonanza of mid-tier DAPs that have come out recently. It’s a good time to be a shopper!

Thanks again :slight_smile:

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Done.

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Great work your doing with your reviews of both Iem’s and Dap’s. I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into doing it. Thanks.

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thank you anthony - this was again very interesting

while waiting for my R5… which could arrive at around the 24th :wink:
I read a DX160 review with a comparison between both and now I´m not sure anymore

the DAP could complement my ifi xDSD soundwise - which is not the most analytical
I would also prefer a volume wheel over the buttons
though the smaller form factor of the R5 is quite cool

so maybe get the DX160(which is 100 Euros cheaper than the R5 over here) and compare them myself

most of the time
I listen with the neutral/bright Focal Elegia
or brighter sounding IEMs(T2 Pro, T3 and T4 ordered and CA IO is planned)
with lower volumes at the office and wonder if a touch warmth from the source is not more beneficial for the day by day background music sessions at work

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I made a quick guide to improving performance on the iBasso DX160 DAP. It should be pretty similar for all the iBasso DAPs as long as you install the correct firmware upgrade from Lurker0.

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Is anyone else having an issue where sensitive IEMs will crackle out of the 3.5mm jack when connected to wifi?

COMPARISON OF THE IBASSO DX160 AND THE HIBY R5 MUSIC PLAYERS

Comparison of the iBasso DX160 and the Hiby R5 Music Players

It seems like on a daily that I’ve been asked to compare these two Digital Audio Players, the $399 iBasso DX160 and the similarly priced Hiby R5, on the various internet audio communities. I happen to own both of them and have reviewed them individually, however I didn’t go to great lengths comparing the two in my previous review of the iBasso DX160 on headphones.com.

In this article, I’ll go over my subjective opinions and some objective facts about both players.

Let’s go over their similarities first.

The two players share a few things in common besides just their price of $399.

  1. They both run Android 8.1 OS

  2. They both contain their proprietary Music application however you are free to install anything else you want on the system

  3. Both contain 4.4mm balanced as an optional headphone output

  4. Both use 2-way Bluetooth for receiving and transmitting

  5. Both use the same Cirrus Logic DAC (and 2 of them on both as well)

  6. Both have very low noise floors, though YMMV

  7. Both have 2GB of system RAM

  8. Both had 1 expandable microSD slot and both have a small amount of on-board disk space

What I like about the the Hiby R5

The Hiby R5 is a compact, easy to handle and very well-built player. It has great curves in the right places and the candy-bar style look reminds me of Sony’s line of DAPs. The buttons are large and easily pressed, but more importantly, are not easily depressed in pockets or with cases on. This is important as I find this to be an issue with the other player in this article.

In terms of software, the Hiby R5 is incredibly fast, as it uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 SOC which is actually used on many budget/mid-tier phones. While it’s considered slow for phones, it performs outstandingly fast as just a music player with minimal multi-tasking and not having to handle phone priorities.

Along the way, Hiby a software-first company, also added System-wide Equalizer and filtering via their MSEB equalization software. This is pretty great because no other DAP that I am aware of has system-wide EQ that’s android based or has support for third party apps. Most of them only have EQ that works on the default music player and other apps are left to their own devices.

The R5 is targeted at delivering a very smooth mid-focused sound that would really appeal to lovers of a relaxing, laid back listen, similar to how I enjoy warm tubes and listening for an extended period of time. This is a good or bad thing of course….

What I don’t like about the Hiby R5

…because with this, the resolution isn’t very good, at least when compared to the DX160 and comparably priced Fiio M11. The R5 is only slightly better in sound quality than the average smartphone. That’s a little unfortunate because everything else about it is great. It just doesn’t have great treble extension and seems to roll-off rather soon. This goes along with the previous statement where I find it warm, lush and mid-focused.

The R5 definitely has a smaller soundstage width and sounds more intimate in that regard, while still retaining a very smooth sound. For me, I would prefer something a little more open and airier.

What I like about the DX160

The DX160 has a larger, brighter and more vibrant looking screen. On top of that, the volume wheel is attractive, albeit, its not the best volume wheel out there. In fact, I think its really a poor use of the wheel and may have been better just using buttons – I love my volume wheels as its done very well with my previous DAPs, but this one doesn’t cut it for me.

Oops, that was a What I Don’t Like About It spoiler. Oh well – What else do I actually like? Well the DX160’s bigger screen makes it easier to type and view things than on the R5. That’s a nice advantage actually. I also enjoy the fact that the USB-C is on a different side than the headphone connectors, however I wish they were flipped, as the USB-C is on top and not on bottom. Either way though, this allows me to use a USB-C docking stand to charge my player while I use it, which I can’t do on my Hiby R5 since they ports are all on one side.

As far as sound quality goes, the DX160 is markedly better than the R5 in terms of shear resolution, treble extension, separation, soundstage width, and dynamics. There’s a noticeable difference going from one to the other and I’ve done a lot of A-Bing between the two and trying to adjust the R5 to improve some of it without luck.

To me, the R5 will present music at its basics and then continue onward. With the DX160, I get the basics but I also get just a little bit more. Strings have more twang to them. Cymbals have more resonance. It’s the little nuances that are just more apparently there that seem to go away quicker on the R5 – its like the difference between a ultra clean solid state amp and a highly distorted tube amp, where the R5 has more softened edges and a little more smearing to give you a more smooth sound, while the DX160 delivers with more intricate detail without as much signal loss.

What I don’t like about the DX160

There’s some issues with the DX160 – this is mainly very mediocre battery life and a UI that can be slow and laggy. This isn’t your best friend when you are trying to multi-task – say downloading tracks from Spotify, Qobuz or Tidal while trying to play music and doing other things – it may or will grind to a halt.

The BT and Wifi reception isn’t the best – in fact Bluetooth range is pretty poor and limited to just about 10-15 feet for me at best. That’s not a problem for me in most all use-cases, which is mainly using it on a plane or walking around where I still have the player near or on me.

While there’s not a whole lot you can do with the 2nd option, and for me its not really a big deal either, the first one comes down to very poor management of resources or picking the wrong governor settings in the Android kernel. This is something that I think Hiby has done a lot better job of, but luckily there are some hacks you can do to improve performance tenfold. I posted an article to that recently on my blog.

People have also complained about issues with noise when using wifi on some batches of the DX160. I, myself, have not experienced this issue but people I know have. This seems to be a small but still substantial bug with some of these devices and should be aware of.

Wrap-Up

I hope this little comparison helps some. I have both still – I prefer the iBasso DX160 with some modifications to the system to get it running how I want from a performance standpoint. The battery life is still not great but I can live with that since I am usually near a way to charge it or play it while connected. The bigger screen is also a big plus for me besides the great sound quality, especially at this price.

That said, I still have fondness of the Hiby R5. It’s a cute compact player that feels wonderful and has software that is fast and good battery life for an Android device. It’s unfortunate that I find the sound quality isn’t on par with the DX160 – and funny thing though, I used the Apple USB-C to 3.5mm adapter with the R5 today, and actually found this to be a really nice combo, and the dongle isn’t software limited by the R5 for whatever reason like it is on other Android devices.

Anyway, there you have it. Let me know if you any questions!

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Absolutely great writeup Anthony. I dont know where you find the time to do all your great work.

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HI Anthony,

thank you for the comparison.
After I got my R5 for xMass, I was quite dissapointed and sent it back after a few days.
The soundquality was worse than my ifi xDSD and I did miss a volume wheel.
Now that you are not happy with the 160´s volume wheel… not sure if I order it or save up for something higher tier. In may I could check out the DX160 at munich high end.
Both DAPs marked for me a point(on paper) where good enough and affordable meet.

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It’s not horrible, just not as good as other players’ volume wheels. It just feels small and cheaper.

It’s still usable though.

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ok - that is exactly what I don´t want :slight_smile: small and cheap feeling with no haptic feedback. I have to test it myself

There’s feedback on it. My big issue and maybe there’s a workaround is that you have to turn the wheel a lot to make it change the volume a little

this would not disturb me and is what I like with the ifi xDSD … you can dial in the smallest volume changes

New firmwares released for the DX150, DX160 and DX220 players
http://www.ibasso.com/down.php

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Does anyone here have listening experience pairing the iBasso DX160 balanced out and Sennheiser HD800? I am curious if there is enough power on tap to satisfying drive these headphones.

I do own the DX160, but I do not have a 4.4 terminated balanced cable/adapter for my HD800, so i thought I would check on this pairing before purchasing a cable only to find out it wasn’t worth the extra cost.

Thanks much in advance!