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Monday, August 25, 2014

Beyerdynamic DX 160 IE review: A bona fide audiophile in-ear headphone that costs less than you'd think

The Good The Beyerdynamic DX160 iE features impressive sound for the money, with meaty, tight bass. A nice carrying case is included.
The Bad No inline remote or microphone for making cell-phone calls; treble clarity a tad lacking.
The Bottom Line While the Beyerdynamic DX160 iE has some small downsides, it's a bona fide audiophile in-ear headphone at an invitingly affordable price.

In case you've never heard of Beyerdynamic, it's a German headphone company that makes some very good sounding headphones, some of which are very expensive.
The DX 160 iE and DX 120 iE, in-ear headphones that retail for $115 and $89 respectively (£86 and £60 UK), represent the company's attempt at serving up more mainstream headphones at more affordable price points -- and indeed, both are up there with the best in-ears we've heard in their price range.
The two models come with seven different sizes of silicone tips, one pair of Comply tips, and carrying cases. The more expensive DX160 iE reviewed here comes with a hard carrying case while the DX120 comes with more of a pouch-style case. Unfortunately, neither features a mic or phone controls, which is too bad.
These two Beyerdynamics sound similar, but there's a bit more life and detail with the step-up DX 160 iE's sound, so we naturally we spent more time with that model.
The cables are a little unusual. The flat cords run 14 inches (36cm) from each earphone and terminate with a 3.5mm plug where the join together; then there's an included 35-inch (99cm) extension cable. The DX 160 iE and DX 120 iE feature black, all-metal ear pieces with 10mm drivers, and impedance is rated at 47 ohms. Comfort and sound isolation were average for this type of design -- pretty good but not great. The headphones are engineered in Germany and made in China.
The DX 160 iE delivers a lot of bass, but it's not thick or muddy. Definition is excellent, and thisheadphone's sound clicked with rock, jazz, electronica, and classical music. Midrange detailing is excellent, but treble clarity is somewhat lacking. The DX 120 iE is a tad more laid-back than the DX 160 iE. That's a plus if you listen to a lot of less-than-stellar MP3s and streaming sources.
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The headphone has a somewhat unusual cable design.Sarah Tew/CNET
Compared to another $100 in-ear audiophile favorite, the Hifiman RE-400, that model is a little more accurate but doesn't have as much bass. The RE-400 presents a more immediate sound; it's brighter, but still nicely balanced. It also plays a little bit louder.
It's a matter of taste which one you prefer but bass fanatics should be quite happy with the DX160, although, as with all in-ears, the quality of that bass is dependent on how tight a seal you can get.

Conclusion

While the Beyerdynamic DX120 iE and DX160 iE have some small downsides (their fit is good but not great and there's no inline remote/microphone), they're bona fide audiophile in-ear headphones for around 100 bucks. For those on a tighter budget, the DX120 iE is a perfectly good choice, but those looking for a little more dynamic headphone would do better to step up to the DX160 iE.
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