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Burson Audio Audio Buffer/Headphone Amp Combo

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Not long ago I purchased two components from Burson Audio; the AB-160 Audio Buffer and HA-160 Headphone Amp. I recently provided feedback to Burson Audio regarding my listening experience with them. Here is an excerpt:

"I promised to give you an opinion of the AB-160/HA-160 set-up so here it is. The two components have been burned in continuously for 240 hours. As you recall, the source component is a Sony SCD-XA777ES SACD player the output of which is fed to the AB-160 and the output of that to the HA-160. It's a simple listening station dedicated to headphone listening only. The following headphones have been used with this set-up:
Ultrasone LE-9
Sennheiser HD650
Grado PS-1
Grado HP-1
To be perfectly honest, I have not been unhappy with my prior headphone amps. However, one does not know what one is missing until you realize you've been missing things. That is the case with the Burson set-up.


I've become more aware of the nuances associated with each instrument. Tambre is more individualized, trailing reverberation is more audible and so one gets the feeling as if you were there in the recording studio right next to the players and their instruments. The plucking of strings and tapping of keys are more audible now and provide a very realistic listening experience.


In a single word...enormous. The result is that there is more distance between each instrument and each instrument is better defined in space. It is easier than before to focus on a single instrumental voice, even when subtle. Yet, despite the large head-stage, voices travel from one ear to the other perfectly smoothly.

Frequency Extension and Balance

Clearly, this is the most variable of my perceptions. I believe it is not so much to do with the Burson set-up but rather to the individual voicing of the four headphones. As one would expect, the PS-1 has deepest bass extension yet the detail is not as precise as the HP-1 which has less bass extension. The detailed sound from the HP-1 rivals that of my Stax Omega electrostatic phones with the Burson set-up and did not sound this way before. The HD650 provided the most balanced sound in that bass was deep, mid-range was full and sweet, and high frequency extention was clear without any hint of stridency. The LE-9 sounded very similar to the HD650 with two exceptions being the larger head-stage and slightly less sweet and thinner mid-range.

Overall impressions

The Burson set-up has become my primary headphone listening venue. For all the reasons stated above, you have produced a fine set of components that bring out the best in recordings. I have begun enjoying my music all over again and I'm now discovering the hidden voicing I never knew existed. Thank you for your dedication and your focus. Its great to be listening to my new old music."

The feedback was not meant to be exhaustive. That's pretty obvious. But I was so impressed with this combination and there is some interest on Head-Fi regarding Burson Audio that I thought others would like to know.
Has anyone else had any experience with either the Audio Buffer, Headphone Amp, or the combination of the two?

For those who would like to know more, here is their link:

post #2 of 3
I recently had the fortune to audition the Burson Buffer by itself on my main rig. This is built to a very high standard and should provide an excellent buffered output stage for

- components that either do not have an output stage and need one, like a DAC board,
- or for inexpensive components that could use some help to get rid of digital edginess,
- or if someone is using a passive preamp and need a little extra oomph to bring out the dynamics in the music.

I found it helped an inexpensive Chinese DAC that I have. It lessened the digital edge and helped smooth out the overall presentation.

However it did not help, and actually hurt the transparency of my far more expensive Ayre CX7e CD player. So I don't think it would be appropriate in all situations, just the ones I've stated above and where I believe Burson built it to be used.

Congratulations on your combo. I'm sure it sounds stellar.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
It is interesting that you found the Audio Buffer hurt the transparency of your Ayre CX7e CD player. Burson and independent reviewers mention that as the quality of the output stage improves, less benefit is obtained. At what point does no benefit occur? I can't answer that but I will say that my Sony SCD-XA777ES is Stereophile Class A rated and was $3000 in 2002 (about the same cost as your Ayre CD player around the same time). The Sony is no heavyweight but is a highly regarded and respected component. The improvement in transparency and detail using the buffer is audible and satisfying and points to its use in components of this calibre. Adding the HA-160 Headphone Amp into the equation effectively adds to the musical enjoyment. So what about the differences in transparency between our two CD players? A try before you buy through a local retailer or a fair return policy would be very helpful. I am sure there are many audiophiles who are looking to improve the SQ of their systems. The AB-160/HA-160 combo is a great way to do it.
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