The sound profile won't suit everyone, of course. Bass is very prominent on the 160, and upper middle notes lack some clarity. Yet perhaps the biggest issue is that competition this year is hot for both quality and price.
For the most part, the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE tested very well in the audio lab. These in-ears absolutely killed isolation tests, blocking massive amounts of outside noise thanks to foam speaker tips, and the measure of total harmonic distortion was impressively low. Unfortunately, a drop in volume throughout upper mids and a discrepancy in the tracking held the 160's score back just a bit.
Busy listeners will notice a frustrating design omission.
Open up the DX 160 iE and a whole host of extras is there to greet you: two types of spiraled speaker sleeves that twist into your ears for a comfortable fit, small/medium/large traditional speaker sleeves, an extra foam set for added isolation, a Y-shaped adaptor for sharing tunes, and a carry case to protect your new headphones during transport.
Even better, the flat cable is tangle resistant and a shirt clip latches onto your collar to prevent tugging. What more could you hope for? As a matter of fact, busy listeners are left longing for the convenience of a remote and microphone. If you're on the run and you want to skip a song or answer a phone call, you'll have to consult your pocket or purse in search of your mobile device.
In terms of emphasis, the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE favors the bass range. Sub-bass and bass frequencies live around 80 and 85dB, whereas middle and high notes keep below the 80dB mark. Luckily, the bulk of the midrange receives enough volume that middle notes on vocals, strings, brass—you name it—all sound plenty detailed. High frequencies, too, are easily audible despite the prominent bass.
Yet a key portion of the upper midrange, between 3-5kHz, falls in volume. This means that high middle notes on trombone, the French horn, the guitar, and plenty of other instruments don't quite get the spotlight they deserve.
Bass is in the spotlight.
Like many of the headphones that come through these doors, the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE in-ears put extra emphasis on bass. Music therefore sounds full and sonorous, a quality many listeners explicitly search for these days, and middle and high notes still ring through with plenty of volume.
Unfortunately, high middle notes do not; the prominent bass combined with a drop in volume throughout upper middle notes steals attention from sibilance on guitar, percussive instruments, and the like. This isn't a make-or-break underemphasis—you can still hear these upper middle notes—but bass tends to overshadow.
If you're a purist, you've already dismissed this product. For everyone else, the rest of the performance points are shining: The DX 160 doesn't produce unwanted distortion and it blocks tons of outside noise—thanks to the included set of foam tips.
Talk about acing a test: Whereas we hope to find less than 3% of THD (total harmonic distortion) on a given set of headphones, the Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE wows us with less than 1%. This is a dynamite results, and it means that these in-ears won't distort, clip, or add junk noise to your music.
If you turn the volume up really loud, however, this is no longer the case. Most headphones have a max sound pressure level of at least 100dB, but these 160s only reach 98.54dB before introducing upwards of 3% THD to the soundscape. Don't get us wrong, that's plenty loud, you shouldn't be listening to tunes higher than 100dB anyway.
Another gold star. If you need a set of headphones to help block out the hustle bustle of the outside world, this is a great option. Beyerdynamic's DX 160 iE crushes a whopping 29.5dB of noise.
To break it down, these headphones reduce bassy noises like rumbling trucks to more than half their volume, midrange noises to more than 1/4 their original, and high-pitched noise to more than 1/32.
Likely enough to please most listeners, but still a hard sell
The DX 160 iE (MSRP $115) has plenty of attractive selling points. The host of great extras, the handsome design, the colossal isolation—for many, this set of in-ears is a no-brainer purchase.
Still, 100 bucks plus isn't exactly pocket change and the competition is stout: We've seen better options, less-expensive options, and even a combination of the two. Beyerdynamic's DX 160 iE are pretty good headphones, but these days, that's not necessarily reason enough to buy.
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Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email