Now obviously these comments are partly a testimonial to the quality of the associated source and playback components I was using, but they are also very much a reflection of the absolute, bedrock solidity of the Burson HA-160. It’s a very powerful tool for anyone reviewing headphones or desktop audio equipment, because it has an almost uncanny ability to help ancillary equipment give of its best.
I also used the Burson quite extensively in working on my review for the exceedingly revealing (and extremely power-hungry) HiFiMAN HE-6 planar magnetic headphones. Let me refer back to some of the comments I made in the HiFiMAN review, which also serve to highlight particular strengths of the Burson amp. I wrote:
“I’ve spoken, above, about the (system’s) superior bass extension and pitch definition, and of (its) terrific transparency and finesse. To experience all of these qualities in play within one gorgeous track, listen to the Jim Brock Ensemble perform “O Vazio” from the Reference Recording’s Jazz Kaleidoscope [HDCD]. The track opens with a variety of percussion sounds produced by various sizes of gongs, chimes and drums--some high-pitched and quite delicate, others low-pitched and capable of abrupt, sharp-edged transient attacks. Finally, as the track unfolds, an enormous, ultra low-pitched drum is struck, filling the whole soundstage with deep, shuddering columns of air.
“The (system navigated) this demanding material with surprising ease and grace, making the chimes and higher-pitched gongs jump and shimmer with the wonderfully realistic sound of metallic instruments being struck and left to resonate in open space, while also capturing the depth, power, and weight of the low frequency instruments. In particular, the (system) captured the fast-rising pressure waves of the bass percussion instruments, so that I could actually feel the pressure gradient change within and around my ears…”
“There are also qualities of effortless suppleness and fluidity in the (system’s) presentation… To appreciate what I mean, let’s look at the track “Nothin’ To Do Blues” as recorded by the Mike Garson Quartet [again from Jazz Kaleidoscope]. The track opens with a bouncy, syncopated piano line played by Garson—a line that is quickly taken up by master bassist Brian Bromberg, who keeps pace with Garson note-for-note. In the background, you can hear percussionist Billy Mintz softly keeping time, gently working his brushes on the surface of his snare drum head. Even further in the background you can hear fellow band members start to groove on the lines Garson and Bromberg are crafting, urging the players onward with murmured words of appreciation and encouragement. As the song develops, Garson shifts gears to take an extended solo where the entire tone and tenor of his piano shifts, taking on a faster paced, smoother and more exploratory quality, almost like the sound of water rushing over the twists and turns of a stream bed. Later, Garson pulls back to give Bromberg a turn and he responds with a brilliantly agile, angular bass solo that probes the upper registers of the instrument.”
“At moments like these in great jazz recordings, where creative energy is on the boil, some (systems) try but fail to keep pace with the musicians and the sheer, delicious complexity of the sounds they are producing… Because (the Burson-powered system had) ample reserves of transient speed and timbral control to draw upon, (it was) able to track with the music, measure-for-measure, note-for-note, and nuance-for-nuance.”
The point I hope to convey, here, is that the Burson HA-160 is a very special amplifier, one whose excellence and fundamental musical honesty I have come to trust and rely upon.
Burson’s Audio’s HA-160 is a superb-sounding and incredibly well made headphone amplifier that is more than reasonably priced at $695. For headphone enthusiasts serious about pursuing top-tier sound, the search can begin right here—and for many, I suspect, it will also end here (because the Burson offers such terrific value for money that searching for something better is apt to become a very expensive proposition). Highly recommended.
Burson Audio HA-160 Solid-State Headphone Amplifier
Frequency Response: 5Hz (-0.3db) -35 kHz (- 1dB)
THD: <0.001% @ 6mW/300 Ohms
Analog Inputs: one stereo analog (via gold-plated RCA jacks with Teflon insulators)
Analog Outputs: two ¼” phone jacks (one “headphone out” optimized for lower impedance loads, one “line out” for higher impedance loads)
Input Impedance: 47 kOhm
Output Impedance: “headphone out,” 5 Ohms:“line out,” 60 Ohms
Headphone Power Output: 650mW @ 300 Ohms, 800mW @ 60 Ohms
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.7” x 4.3” x 11”
Weight: 13.2 lbs.