As promised, I have some initial reports on the HD 800's combined with the Burson 160D and Woo WA6.
The cleanest DAC I have available out of my MacBook Pro is USB to the Burson (I also have an Apogee Duet at my disposal-- that's another review), then either the Burson Amp or the WA 6 to drive the headphones. The source is FLAC files through Fidelia, using Dire Straits Communique as reference material here.
The Burson D/A is not the greatest in the world, but it's certainly not the worst, either. It got a horrible write-up on CNET, but those guys are rarely reliable for high end audio reviews. Headfonia puts the 160D in the mid-fi range, and Mike actually prefers it to the DACmini.
I use the Burson because it has pre-amp outs to drive my Genelecs and WA6, too. I will eventually upgrade, but for now, I gotta roll with what I got, and it's a decent multi-purpose audio tool. This rig is exceptional for the HD 650s. Will it do wonders on the HD 800s?
Yes. And no. The solid state amp is fine for the HD 800s from a power standpoint. It drives them, drives them with plenty of power to spare (using the low output still pushes my hearing threshold). And I don't feel like I'm lacking straight off the Burson.
The sound is fairly tight, good to very good bass extension, trending a little into sibilance on the highs at the extreme upper frequencies. Imaging is exceptional, but soundstage is not exceptionally wide, but not poor either. Decay in the reverb is only good, and part of the reason the soundstage may lack a bit in width.
As a do-it-all-in-one unit, I'd say it's a reasonable unit for the money. Now comes that big BUT.
The problem is-- I have a WA6 sitting right next to it. And it's not exactly stock. I'm running a 1957 Mullard GZ34 metal base rectifier tube, and 6SN7 matched drivers. Oh my.
Plug in and the base dives instantly deeper with a LOT of punch. It's the kind of bottom end that gets drool worthy, and makes me wish I had a pair of LCD-3s to compare. The soundstage gains about a foot. The sibilance that is ever so slight on the Burson is gone through the WA6. Decay goes on forever and opens the sound up. In short, it's not even close. I can tell instantly things have changed for the better. Imaging is brilliant.
Is the Burson bad? No. Absolutely not. If I didn't have my hot rod WA6 sitting next to it, I may be singing a different story. And there's the little voice in my head that's nagging-- if things are THIS good on the WA6-- What would the WA5-LE sound like? My wallet doesn't want to know, but my ears sure do!
A quick word on the driver tubes on the WA6-- the HD 650's yielded a near indistinguishable difference in drivers between the 6DE7 tubes and 6SN7s. On the HD 800s, the 6SN7 driver difference is a clear change, the 6SN7 throws a lot more bass punch into the sound. The 6DE7 tubes which sounded great with the 650's are thin on the HD 800s.
That's what I got for ya....
thanks for your impressions. ever consider the WA6-SE?