DA-160 DAC $950 Shipped in the US
Best Price/Performance in this category
The HA-160D 3 in 1 unit has been warmly received by fellow audiophiles since 2010. Since then, developing a stand alone DAC based on the DAC section of the HA-160D has always been on our minds. After taking into account feedback and many more valuable suggestions from the audiophile community, Burson have developed the DA-160, which is fully discrete, more refined in sound, with better compatibility and Connectivity. The result met all of our expectations.
Our dissatisfaction with IC based building blocks such as IC opamps and 3 pin power supply regulators have been well aired. The DA-160 is completely free of such cost focused building blocks. Instead they have built the entire DAC with idealistic circuitry designs and top quality discrete components. The focus of our discrete approach was purely on performance.
A more matured and refined sound
Although the DA-160 is based on the DAC section of the HA-160D, being a stand alone DAC they had more freedom to further optimize its performance. They decided to tweak the power supply network into a constant current source power supply and use two power transformers to lower the noise. The result is a more matured sound with even richer micro dynamics and substance.
The new DA-160 is designed to be the heart of an audio system, therefore connectivity is a must. They added two sets of USB inputs to make sharing the DAC between 2 PCs or wireless player easy. Apart from the standard RCA S/PDIF, an additional Optical Toslink was also added. Furthermore there are two sets of RCA outputs running parallel to make sharing the outputs of DA-160 between the two systems possible (eg, headphone amplifier and intergraded amplifier).
Burson HD Audio DAC
While most of the marketing spin centers on the DAC chip, the output stages are in fact the most critical stages in any audio DAC design. They are not getting the air time that they deserve because properly designed output stages are complex and expensive, and the concept is harder to sell to a customer compared to a DAC chip model number.
After the digital signals (0s and 1s) are converted by the DAC chip into stereo signals, A chain of output stages are needed to reconstruct, preserve and amplify the very weak analog signals. Any distortion and signal loss during these stages is irreversible. Unfortunately, due to the lack of customer awareness of the output stages, they are where most audio companies cut their costs, and it is common to see an output stage designed around a $20 IC opamp.
The DA-160 has fully discrete output stages that are independently powered. Operating in Class-A, they ensure the highest level of signal preservation. The result is higher resolution audio playback, with a completely transparent sonic signature consistent with our ideals.
High Density (HD) Construction
Conventional PCB designs are not only big and clumsy, but they often leave audio equipment not optimized. They squeezed components close and stacked one densely populated PCB on top of another. This design process was completely manual and it complicated production. However because the sonic benefits outweighed the pain, they persisted. Burson's HD construction achieves a smaller footprint, while enhancing sonic performance by lowering noise and unwanted capacitance.
When they design an audio circuitry, they painstakingly position each component to ensure that they are as close to each other as possible while maintaining symmetry. This often means transistors overshadowing resistors, solder points a millimetre apart and densely populated PCBs stacked in layers.
This process is painstaking because they cannot rely on any computer program to do this. Instead, they do the whole process by hand, one component at a time and one millimeter at a time. The end result also slows production and increases the possibility of error as all solder points are extremely close to one another.
That is why other manufacturers in their “right” minds would not do it.
team did this for the same reason as they do everything at Burson Audio. That is, the sonic benefits from doing so outweighed the pain. With our HD construction they were able to overcome some of the fundamental shortcomings other manufacturers tend to ignore.
Less noise – by minimizing and optimizing the signal path they were able to reduce any EMI noise that may be picked up with a longer and less optimized signal path.
Less parasitic capacitance – These are unavoidable and unwanted capacitance that exists between closely spaced conductors, such as those on a PCB track. With our HD construction, such capacitance is minimized, allowing our circuit to operate in a more ideal condition.
Smaller footprint – Space is luxury. The HD construction enabled a bigger sound from a relatively smaller package. Our DA-160 for example would be 4 times larger if they were to use a standardized component layout.
The foundation of the HD Audio Opamp is a sophisticated Voltage Differential Amplification network. The entire opamp is constructed from audio graded transistors and resistors. Such a design will ensure minimal colouration and maximum dynamics, but this design feature also posed a great challenge to production; without rigid component matching, it would be easy for sonic imbalance to occur. only use a 1% tolerant resistor. Before soldering them onto the PCB, they put them through a component burn-in module. After 50 hours of burn-in, each resistor will then be retested and matched before proceeding to our assembly line. The result of such a quality control process, is a further 10% of component rejection. This strict and very expensive BURN and MATCH process ensures the stability of the circuit. It ensures a perfect balance of sonic imagery across the entire frequency spectrum. It also guarantees a stable and realistic sound stage between the speakers. Furthermore they insisted on a top quality lead free solder and temperature controlled soldering process. This was the only solution to reducing heat stress on our components, and minimizing short circuits caused by a soldering bath used in large-scale production. Cost focused manufacturers would never adopt such an approach due to the significant increase in production costs. Burson Audio on the other hand knows that only our level of quality control can produce opamps worthy of our badge. Only our level of quality control can produce the best Opamp in the market.
Burson understand how critical it is for a DAC to match well with different down stream equipment (eg. Headphone amplifier, pre amplifier, passive preamp and various solid state or tube designs.) In 2007 Burson introduced the AB-160 audio buffer to resolve this precise issue. In the DA-160 Burson designed a Variable Output Buffer stage to allow better matching with all down stream equipment. It ensured optimal performance of our DA-160 across any platform.
Input impedance: 52 KOhms
Frequency response: 5Hz (-0.3dB) to 35 kHz (-1dB)
Signal to noise ratio: >101 dB at 0dB gain
THD: <0.001% at 6mW/300 Ohms
Channel separation: >95dB/10kHz
Output impedance: line out 25 Ohms 45 Ohms (selectable)
Power dissipation: <25W, internal, regulated power supply
Dimensions: (180mm X 250mm X 80mm)
2 x USB Connection (Support up to 24bit @ 96Khz with 10ppm low jitter clock)
1 x Coaxial RCA (Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz)
1 x Toslink / SPDIF (Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz)
2 x RCA output (line level output with + 6dB gain selection)
Weight: app. 5 kg
Color: silver anodized aluminum
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