What Came In The Mail Today

Too early to give any sound impression, but it does drive the Hifiman HE-6 and the Audez’e LCD-2 simultaneously without breaking a sweat. I guess I’ll leave it on that position for the next hundred hours.

For now, I can recommend this article to help kill time. πŸ˜‰

Rate this review

  • Mike

    The HA-160D with its internal DAC is a very good pairing with both the HE-6 and the LCD-2. I am just going back and forth between the two orthos so far, and I'm liking the sound very much.

    Haven't had too much time to compare the internal DAC to some external ones, but I'll definitely do so in the next one or two days.

    • Jose

      Always teasing us Mike! The DAC part is the one I am most interested in, the amp is supposed to be identical the HA160 right? Many people, including me, are skeptical about it (how good is the DAC).

      • Mike

        Your skepticism are valid. But how good of a DAC are you expecting anyway? I would probably compare the internal DAC to something like the HRT MS2+. I think with a solution like this, the selling point is the compact one-box solution. Even with the MS2+, you'll have some cable clutter on your desk, and on these days where we always have too many gadgets, USB cables, and chargers, a simple one box solution is always a good thing.

        I've been listening to the set up with the HE-6 and the LCD-2, and I don't notice any bad distortions or nasty colorations in the set up. Sure, I won't expect the DAC section to beat a serious desktop DAC, but I truly appreciate the compactness of the set up, and the good USB implementation too.

        The amplifier sounds 99% like the Burson HA-160 amplifier. Natural sounding, with its great bass impact and PRaT. The same aggressive sound that complements Rock very well. If you like the LCD-2 and the HE-6 sound, the signature of the Burson should be right for you. It doesn't try to sound tubey, and it's not about a mellow or romantic presentation. The amp is also more natural sounding than say a Grace m902 or Lavry DA11 internal amp, so that's a good thing. It's not bright, it's not mid oriented, and it's not bass heavy. It's fairly neutral, but the awesome bass impact keep it from sounding sterile and boring.

        I think PRaT is the word I'd use to describe this amp. Rock fans should apply here. B)

  • Cortes

    haha, love this posts with pictures of the package.
    I remember the first time I bought a laptop I took pictures during all the ritual of opening the box πŸ˜‰

  • Brian

    Once the Gilmore X2 is out, it will make a very interesting counterpoint to the HA-160D.

  • Alf

    Hi! really intrested in is what the dac sounds like on high quallity audio materials like 24bit 192khz or 24bit 96khz- Hopefully the future music production will leave the 16 bit format, wolud be very intresting to hear your thoughts on this!
    regards Alfy!

    • Mike

      I have some 24/96 files that I will try out with the HA-160D. I'll get back to you on that. πŸ™‚

  • .Sup

    What I don't like about it, is that there is only one button for 5 inputs. I would like to quickly switch between inputs if I'm comparing sources. My DM also has one selector button for 3 inputs and sometimes I'n too fast and miss the desired input and have to go through selection again. I know they probably wanted to make a simplistic look and they succeeded imo but it isn't practical.

  • Kunal

    I'am usually very skeptical about DAC/AMP combo units,the two need to have their own dedicated enclosures,with powewr supplies,avoid circuit interference.

    • Daniel

      There is actually a pro to having a DAC very close to the AMP. You get a short signal path which in return gives you optimal sound quality, if the AMP is very transperant to begin with tough. =)

      • Kunal

        I'am not entirely sure about the DAC chip they are using,but they claim that thier analog output stage is unique in terms that they have spend enough time to make sure nothing is lost.
        I know audio-gd has a very fine Digital input stage but not so known analog output stage.

        • Mike

          The D/A chip is PCM1793. πŸ™‚

      • Mike

        The amplifier is definitely transparent enough to benefit from the short signal path.

  • Daniel

    Hey Mike, just for fun, compare the DAC section to the HM-801 aswell. Thanks!

    • Mike

      Sure Daniel. πŸ™‚ That's a bit too optimistic though. πŸ™‚

  • Matthew

    Hey Mike, would you prefer the Concerto or the HA-160 if I had the PRO 900s/HD650 and LCD-2? Thanks!

    • Mike

      Hi Matt,
      My friend who own a Concerto is trading his amp for a Burson like this one. πŸ˜‰ He also owns the HD650 and LCD-2.

      I had a chance to audition the Concerto and I was not impressed. It lacked punch, mid and low end body. I would definitely go with the Burson amp. It's all discrete, where the Concerto is based on AD797 opamps.

  • Matthew

    Awesome thanks! I managed to score a 10/10 condition used one for under $400, so it seems I won't be having to sell it to fund a concerto. Saved me some money πŸ™‚

    • Mike

      a 10/10 condition HA-160 for $400? That's a steal!

  • Mike

    I left the HA-160 running overnight with both the HE-6 and LCD-2 plugged in. The HE-6 in the high gain connector and LCD-2 on low gain. This allows me to switch headphones quickly with little volume adjustments in between.

    After a night of continued run (~12 hours?) the Burson sounds really really good now. The treble extension has opened up, and overall the sound is much more clearer. I'm having goosebumps listening to the HE-6 and playing U2's Joshua Tree. πŸ˜€

    Burn, baby, burn!!! πŸ˜€

    • Kunal

      I wish that Burson would make some speaker amps at decent price for the HE-6,the talk of the town is that you need speaker amp for the HE-6 no doubt.
      I somehow agree on that with my modest setup.

      • tingm

        They do make speaker amps, I think.The orthos doesn't need a very high resolution amp. Power is all it needs. A gainclone amp should suffice for it.

        • Kunal

          The resolution and refinement of the amp is important,if that is not present there is no way the headphones will magically bring out the detail.

          • tingm

            Not so important with the orthos as with the dynamics.

  • Mike

    Comparing the DAC section of the HA-160 to the Grace m902.

    Soundstage wise, the m902 is wider, but the m902 DAC is slightly disconnected on the center soundstage. The HA-160 DAC's soundstage is much better overall: almost as wide as the Grace, but better depth and better coherence in the imaging. Treble is also smoother than the Grace. πŸ™‚

    One area at which the Grace remains unmatched is bass control. For complex bass passages, the Grace's bass is better controlled and is clearer.

    The comparison was done with an Onkyo Ipod Dock sending data through Coax to either the m902 or the Burson HA-160D. The analog out is then sent to the Zana Deux.

    The Pre-amp out on the Burson is muted whenever there is a headphone being plugged in, where on the Grace both outputs can be on at the same time.

  • Eugen

    Hmm … just add a preamp and a remote control to the HA160, with a moderate price increase …

    • Mike

      It does have pre-out. But no remotes. :p

  • I was about to say it needs a head-to-head with the Lehmann BCL-USB. Then I remembered it won't be an apple-to-apple comparison (DAC spec-wise).

    Waiting patiently for the full review!

    • Mike

      I read your comment and I went to google to find out about the DAC of the Linear USB. Then I discovered that they are using a PCM 2702 and a 48bit max data. I truly wonder what Lehmann is thinking with that kind of specs…

      • It was/is a *very* old architecture. Something like the Synthesis Matrix DAC. Can't really fault them, I guess. Not a lot of juicy options for USB receivers back then.

        • I'm already grateful for them not using some shoddy CSxxxx module. LOL.

  • Tash

    Hi Mike,

    I'm interested that you compared the DAC section to the HRT MS2+. I'm going to be running my HE-6 (which arrived today – can't wait to get them home :D) from an MS2+ => EF-5 amp.

    I'd be interested on your reflections as to how the Burson 'all-in-one' solution compares to this setup? My guess is that the difference will largely come down to the different amp flavours – PRaT of the Burson vs the slightly warm + mids boost of the EF-5?

    • Mike

      I think you've summed it up quite well. It will depend on your personal preference. πŸ™‚

  • Roscoe

    For another POV on this Burson 160D, the 6moons has posted. And WOW did Srajan the reviewer like the DAC. Preferred it to his Weiss Minerva/DAC2. Big words.

    And certainly interested in hearing comparisons to this and the MS2+, as well as Tash's impressions of the MS2+ & EF-5 setup. Good times.

    • Mike

      Hi Roscoe, yes Srajans preffered it to his Weiss (and Antelope too, if I remember correctly).

      I am still waiting for the 24/96 patch for the Burson to be finished, and so I should not talk too much about the USB DAC section until that happens.

  • Didier

    Have they sorted the volume control issue?

    • Mike

      The volume control having too much gain, you mean?

      If that's the one you're talking about, I believe Burson has lowered the gain quite a while ago. My DAC-less HA-160 has no issues with IEMs.

  • Didier

    Many people complained that the volume change between steps was too large for low impedence phones and that the sound cuts off between steps? thanks

    • Mike

      Hi Didier,
      The earliest version of the HA-160 has a very high gain, and that was a big problem for using with IEMs. I believe they lowered that, and the HA-160 that I received doesn't have any problem with IEMs anymore, even with the JH16Pro.

      Here is a picture of the attenuator in close up:
      <img src="http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/burson_ha160_06.jpg"&gt;

      <img src="http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/burson_ha160_04.jpg"&gt;

      You can see that it's practically a selector switch with 24 different positions to choose from, each with different resistor values that will attenuate the signal to different levels. In between the positions, you will get sound cut offs. I had another attenuator that is a famous DACT unit, and it has the same problem as the Burson. (I actually think the Burson is better built than the DACT).

      The sound cut offs may happen if you turn the knob slowly. That's just the reality with a stepped-attenuator style volume control. If you turn it fast, then the problem is quite minimal.
      It has 24 steps in total, and it's quite different from a regular potentiometer style control which is more of a sweeping turn with no breaks in between.

      Here is an illustration of a potentiometer from Wikipedia.
      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Reochord.jpg"&gt;

  • moodyrn

    The internals both design and parts used looks very similar to audio-gd products. I wonder if they are the oem. It's been made known for some time that audio-gd was the oem for their discrete opamps. Looks like a very solidly built product.

    • Mike

      Hi Moodyrn, thanks for posting. I was quite shocked to hear that, but I'm writing an email to Burson to see if that's true, or merely rumors. Let's find out the truth together. B)

    • Mike

      Here is the reply from Burson:

      "All Burson Audio products are designed and produced by Burson Audio in Burson Audio facilities. We have no need for others to OEM for us and we have absolutely no association with this audiogd."

  • Vitalie

    Audio-GD doesn't use such beefy power supplyes as Burson (see NFB10 for ex), doesn't have a very high quality stepped attenuator such as Burson, and doesn't use high-end caps (Burson uses ELNA, currently best caps in production in the world) and only discrete electronics, only one very good module (not as Audio-GD's 3 different discrete modules), for me Burson are More professionals on analog stage and software side too (hello async conversion and dedicated drivers for 160D)

    Mike please keep the impressions coming after the recommended 200 hour break in time πŸ˜‰
    My first post here, wanted to tell that i Really enjoy reading your posts and reviews, Mike.
    Could you tell me how do you find 160D with HD800 and LC2 (currently owning HD800 and wtb LCD2) Too bad they do not make 160D in black anodized too

    • Spyder

      If you look at their higher end DAC, don't they use beefier PSUs?

      • tingm

        I am not too familiar with the Audio-Gd line up, but perhaps someone more knowledgeable can help answer that.

    • Mike

      The Burson amp section continues to be the most PRaT-ful amp I've found for driving the HD800. It truly shines at that department. If I want a more romantic rendering of the HD800, I use the Zana, while for pure solid state technicalities I go for the Beta22.With the LCD-2, I'm finding the Burson to be my favorite amp since it has the same PRaT-ful quality that the LCD-2 is awesome for. The Burson's decay is also quite short, which works very well for fast Rock.

      • Vitalie

        Actually 80-90% of my music to rock/metal, so I am very glad to hear that.
        Wondering also how it handles HD800 harshness/bright character, if it somehow manages to control that I'm going to order an 160D as a holiday present.

        • Mike

          I still think that the HD800 is not built for Rock. Even if you can tone down the treble, it's still doesn't have the energy and the proper presentation for Rock.Neverthless, the Burson is pretty neutral. It's not going to change the HD800 treble too much, but it's not going to add anything to it either.With the LCD-2, however, it becomes one of the best system for Rock. I think it'll make a pretty nice Christmas gift. πŸ˜€

  • Vitalie

    Thanks Mike !
    I'm going to order one soon and will start saving for LCD2 πŸ˜‰

    • Mike

      LOL. I didn't mean to make your wallet suffer like that. I thought you already have the LCD2 from your last comment.

      The HD800 is awesome for Jazz, Classical and stuff like that… but Rock is one thing that the HD800 can't do well. πŸ˜›

  • Steve

    You mentioned a 24/96 patch for the USB input. Are the new units that are shipping now coming with this patch installed? If not, and we buy one now, how does it get updated when the patch is available?

    • Mike

      Hi Steve,
      I haven't heard any updates from Burson regarding the software patch, so I can't say much. As for getting the Burson "updated" with the new patch, I think it should be more of a driver download format that you install on your computer. I'm not very certain though. :S

  • bfwiat

    Hi Mike, great site.

    I have just borrowed a Burson HA160D and . . . WOW!
    It only has about 35 hrs on it, but so far the headphone/dac combination is solid both in tone and soundstage, liquid (as in musical notes don't just play – they flow).

    As a pre amp/DAC in my main HiFi rig it is also quite an amazingly natural sound stage with a rock solid tone and rhythm that really create a sense of live music in the air.
    These are just my initial feelings after one evening/well into the night.

    I must admit that while at work today, all I could think about was how I can't wait to go home and listen to more music through it. πŸ™‚

    I can't wait to read your views Mike.


    • Mike

      Sounds good, Simon. Glad you're enjoying the Burson. A lot of my friends really liked the Burson and it's becoming the new favorite mid high-end solid state amp. B)

    • Mike

      You can download the Burson HA160D wallpaper in the download section: http://www.headfonia.com/downloads/


  • bfwiat

    oh. . . and by the way, my unit did 24bit 96khz over USB out of the box no probs whatsoever.

    (on Sony VAIO Windows PC)

  • Justin

    Hi Mike!
    will you kindly write a full review on the 160D?

    • Mike

      Hi Justin, I am still waiting for the USB receiver patch from Burson. A review is definitely planned.

  • Onlia Say

    In your opinion is HA-160D adeguate for T1 similarily as for the LCD-2?
    And it would be maybe good idea to mention in review how and when they resolved the patch issue, for the sake of all inetersted buyers/readers.

    • Mike

      I can't really say if the T1 is similar to the LCD-2 with the Burson, they're two different headphones. But the T1 and the LCD-2 both pair very well with the Burson. The patch issues, I'm still waiting from an update from Burson, so I am still not able to write anything about it.

  • Onlia Say

    Oh yes, one more question – you say HA-160D is situated well for rock because of shorter decay time. But shorter decay time is not neccessarily a good thing or I am well missing something (which is possible also..)

    • Mike

      That's true — shorter decay is not necessarily a good thing. It depends on what Rock you're listening too as well. I think the newer progressive Rock stuff would benefit from faster decay as their music are relatively busy and fast-paced. But the Burson is not all about shorter decay as well. The treble is not bright or piercing, the bass is fast and very punchy, the presentation is fairly aggressive, I think all these translate to a good Rock amplifier. πŸ™‚

  • Cortes


    I guess it not possible, but it would be great to compare the HA160D with the anedio D1. Similar prices and features http://www.anedio.com/index.php/product/d1_overvi


    • George

      I would also like to see a review of the Anedio D1 from Headfonia. The Anedio looks extremely interesting.

      • Mike

        Thanks, guys. I'll look into it. πŸ™‚

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