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Burson HA-160D Impressions from the Burson Loaner Program at Headfonia

post #1 of 186
Thread Starter 

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.

 

Follow Up:

 

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!

 

 

IMG_5962.jpg

 

IMG_5964.jpg

 

IMG_0016.jpg

 

IMG_0014.jpg

 

Sorry for the bad pics... and not having a decent equipment rack LOL

post #2 of 186

Awesome review, thank you!

I basicaly have the same feeling about HA-160D, loving it every day ;-)

post #3 of 186
Thread Starter 

 I was just thinking that this unit may be expensive for people just starting out in the hobby looking for a headphone amp but if you think about it, It is hard to find very nice preamps for under $1000. If one has a speaker based audio system, the great preamp is already worth at least that much plus the DAC and Headphone amp functions also being top notch makes this Burson an awesome bang for the buck!


Edited by donunus - 7/27/11 at 1:43am
post #4 of 186

Very nice review indeed.

 

Im looking for a new amp and indecisive between b22 and ha-160d.

 

I love Diy-ing and would love to build a gamma2 as well. but its reviews like this pulls me towards burson.

 

I think I read somewhere about burson customising the outputs so dac can be used as standalone.

post #5 of 186
Thread Starter 

So far as I know, the dac can only be used either through the headphone jacks or via the preamp. There is no line level output. 

post #6 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by donunus View Post

So far as I know, the dac can only be used either through the headphone jacks or via the preamp. There is no line level output. 



The DAC output can the controlled by the stepped atenuator volume control, 10 clicks gives you 2 VRms output. I've used it only as a DAC too with the same great results.

post #7 of 186
Thread Starter 

yah. I've tried it as a dac that way too going into another preamp. It works okay

post #8 of 186

Lol, I was planning on buying everything pictured. I think you just sold me on a 160D.

 

I read somewhere the volume control maybe be too aggressive when used as a preamp, and needed to be re-stepped by Burson. Any comments? Do you feel the volume knob as-is provides adequate range?

 

Thanks.

post #9 of 186
Thread Starter 

The volume control actually needs more volume if it were my decision

post #10 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by donunus View Post

The volume control actually needs more volume if it were my decision

 

Better to have a too little gain than too much, imo.  Less gain means more range on the volume control.  If not, range can be too short with sensitive headphones or speakers.  

post #11 of 186

Subscribing. I also sent an application, hopefully Burson sends it to EU too even though shipping costs would be higher than to Philippines.

post #12 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by .Sup View Post

Subscribing. I also sent an application, hopefully Burson sends it to EU too even though shipping costs would be higher than to Philippines.


I have the EU loaner from burson. I will post my review on friday on headfonia. I was in paris so i have some delay
post #13 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultrainferno View Post



I have the EU loaner from burson. I will post my review on friday on headfonia. I was in paris so i have some delay


Awesome, can't wait Ultra

post #14 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by tamu View Post

Very nice review indeed.

 

Im looking for a new amp and indecisive between b22 and ha-160d.

 

I love Diy-ing and would love to build a gamma2 as well. but its reviews like this pulls me towards burson.

 

 

I'll be reviewing the HA-160D soon, and comparing the Dac section against my HeadAmp Pico, which IMO sounds indistinguishable from the AMB Y2 (I've compared them and couldn't tell the difference).

 

I'm going to try and talk one of the sydney head-fi'ers into loaning me a Buffalo 32 as well, to compare the HA-160D against a truly top-notch DIY source.

 

post #15 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by Covenant View Post



 

I'll be reviewing the HA-160D soon, and comparing the Dac section against my HeadAmp Pico, which IMO sounds indistinguishable from the AMB Y2 (I've compared them and couldn't tell the difference).

 

I'm going to try and talk one of the sydney head-fi'ers into loaning me a Buffalo 32 as well, to compare the HA-160D against a truly top-notch DIY source.

 

That would be great. Ill be waiting for the review.

thanks
 

 

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