I just wanted to start a thread here compiling my impressions from headfonia of the Burson ha-160D. I hope the next guys that get their loaner ha-160D also post here.
2 Days Ago...
As for now connected as a dac/amp via USB, the ha-160D to me is detailed and clean with a touch of upper bass/lower midrange bloom and lack harshness and brightness in the lower highs typical in some other desktop amps I have tried. Battery powered amps seem to be better than desktop amps a lot of the time Ive noticed when it comes to the lower highs I'm not sure why that is. Bass slam and impact is of course typically better on the desktop amps.
The burson portrays the sound in a slightly forward fashion with nicely present mids and have good transient response and a realistic portrayal of instrumental timbre. The only thing so far that I can complain about is the lack of the fun factor I am used to in my inexpensive fiio e7/e9 combo during snare drum attacks. The fiio might be more unnaturally bright in this area making them snappier than real but it is a good thing for headphones with a softer than real sound like the senns that I'm using (HD600, HD650). I feel them to be a better match with the hd600 though than they are the hd650.
I can recommend this amp to people into a composed sound with good control and balance without any extra glare in the highs. Don't get me wrong, the highs are extended but never shrill. Shrillness is more of a fuction of lower treble brightness than top end extension. Although the sound is warm, I can't call it tubelike because the attack is faster and the decay is shorter than what we would expect typical in tubes. I myself would wan't a longer decay for the semi-dry sounding senns but this is more nitpicking about synergy and taste than talking about the quality of this grainless sounding amp.
Additional Notes about the impressions above:
I also realized that the Burson isn't really less bright than the fiios if you count the entire spectrum in the balance. The Fiio's mids are just more recessed compared to the rest of the spectrum. I tend to turn up the volume on them more because of the recessed mids.
The Burson is far more balanced resulting in the better mids. I should get another higher end amp here to compare with them though because this comparison is very predictable since were comparing two products in totally different price ranges.
I'd like to add that this comment was made while listening to both in high gain. When Both amps are at low gain, the differences in their tonality gets smaller and feel they both approach a neutral sound more in their low gain modes. The Burson is still smoother and more 3D against the FiiO which is more sterile and lifeless in direct comparison. The FiiO is a really good amp for the price though when you consider the power and decently neutral tonality but competition against the Burson? NOT! I just wished I used the low gain jack in the first place and I wouldn't have gotten annoyed by the aggressive mids of the high gain jack.
The comment about the grainlessness wasn't 100% accurate but the Burson was pretty grainless compared to the cheaper FiiOs. Also I didn't enjoy the Bursons that much yet until i discovered that the Low Gain Jack sounds so much better than the High gain Jack.
Update from Last Night:
My friend and I just tested it with the magnepan system and replaced the adcom preamp with it. What can I say? This is a serious preamp! It slaughters the adcom preamp across the board. There is no contest at all whatsoever. The ha-160D just sounds like a high end piece of equipment where all the music feels like it is alive with more punch, less congestion, more coherence, more accuracy, and more realism. It makes the adcom preamp sound thin, lacking in dynamics and slightly nasal. The magnepan mmgs sounded spooky in its portrayal of instruments with the burson as a dac/preamp in the chain. Pianos weren't hollow anymore, voices were bold and natural and bigger than life on the maggies, It was unbelievable how an all in one device like the burson can slaughter a dedicated preamp from a well known manufacturer like adcom.
We also found my friends hd595 just lying around and put them in the low gain jack and lo and behold... The best sound I have ever heard out of hd595s ever! HD595s have always annoyed me with some part of the upper midrange feeling very congested and grating. With the burson, the 595s were balanced like I've never heard them before. WOW! I then tried the 595s out of the high gain jack and said What? wheres the beautiful sound? It sounds too forward now, grating, and less coherent. I think I just found the reason why I felt my hd600s weren't anything special on the Burson's. I don't like the sound of the High Gain Jack!
I'll try the 600s again but this time on the low gain jack. It is either that or the fact that I was using usb instead of coax with my earlier impressions. With the magnepans and the hd595s, I was using the coaxial digital input since we were playing CDs on a CD player instead of files on the computer.
I'll pinpoint whether the usb vs coax makes a huge difference and compare the low vs high gain jack on the hd600s later tonight.
Even with the hd600s now that I've learned to use the low gain plug is awesome!!! There are a few recordings like Clair Marlo's "Let It Go" that don't have enough volume with the hd600 at the low gain plug though but these CDs are rare. Even the first pressing of Michael Jackson's thriller which was pressed in the early 80s is plenty loud enough. If I had the money to buy them right now, I would instantly go for it. The internal lights of the demo unit looks awesome too!
Sorry for the bad pics... and not having a decent equipment rack LOL