Burson HA-160D review test

Silver stand out

Burson HA-160D in company of Antelope Zodiac Gold and Lampiztor Level 4 DAC.
Is it really everything about the latest specs and fastest speeds lately? Are we in the state of ultra, hyper, fast-forward and overwhelming audio hype?

Often we are. For sure, there is a lot of snake oil marketing, one shot companies, overhyped and paid testing going around (just look at car industry), that throws a shades on our subject of matter, but it’s not the final statement or conclusion. It should never be. We’re beings of doubts, exploring and a sensitive creatures both within measurable and sense universe. So our intelligent and emotional brain hemispheres need to work jointly to perform at a greater plane of perceiving things. How come, that experienced guitar, violin and piano players for example can at once distinct about different tone and sense of an instrument? Mileage, knowledge love and passion are the keys. It is the same with articulation and timbre. This is why we need strong references in our testing and they shall not pass the natural live recordings. Not only classical, but across all genres. We need those strong imprints, which we can instantly recall when needed in times of testing, comparing and drawing conclusions.

Burson HA-160D
In our bellowed high-end audio we try to build such a high pedestals and being a sentinels of this magical art. Being above everything else. In real world situations, there is no place for those, when trying to be at least partially objective. How can we acquire finer tastes in fine cuisine and taste all the subtle differences? We developed and refined our senses and perception of it. In the same manner we can draw analogy in audio. Over the years, with careful listening we can advance in our critical listening’s. Just reset and take fresh ears with you on listening (or ask your girlfriend, wife etc.) to be a part of critical listening. You’ll be surprised out of your safety boxes to the max. 

So why this entire intro on Burson HA-160D. Because this little music machine is a different beast, that stand out of the crowd and regular boxes.

All in one

Burson HA-160D is Coaxial and USB DAC, preamplifier and headphone amplifier all in one box. Everyone I showed HA-160D enclosure was impressed by it’s appearance. Slick and hick aluminum faceplate, rear, side and cover plates are all made of thick aluminum, that act both as resonance absorber and since HA-160D runs in pure A class, also as heat dispatcher. You’ll be surprise how hot this shinny silver box can get.

The magic

Continuing feast for an eyes and audiophile mind is under the hood of Burson HA-160D. Just try to open the cover of conventional head amp module, which you’ll get within your CD player, DAC, integrated amplifier, sound card etc. In most cases, this will be a simple IC operational amplifier, that cost even less then your regular bubble gum. Even some of the upper echelon audio DAC’s uses them shamelessly in their output stages. No wonder people are not in all of their thrills and chills, when it comes to the sound of this bigger and higher priced boxes.

In a best company of Sennheiser HD-800
Burson builds their own fully discrete output stages, which are independently powered from one of the five transformers. Yes, five. They separated power supplies to ensure best possible results across DAC and amplification stages. Thumbs up! If you’re curios, DcS for example builds their own output stages and you know what are the prices of their gear. It would be unfair, not to be impressed and enthusiastic about Burson build quality, the way they do things and parts being used in HA-160D. There are no simple cuts in costs here and I do think, that this whole package is priced more then just fairly.


In between of purchasing my Lamm LL2 preamplifer, I used Burson HA-160D for two or three weeks in my reference system as main preamplifier. With combination of my Mactone MH-300B power amplifier, they both become a dynamic duo for both digital and analog front ends. I cannot stand preamplifiers without enough dynamic “slam” to push music where it should be. There are no restrains in real world music and we should always seek for the gear, that acts as such in our passionate listening. HA-160D never seems to run out of reserve when partnering with Mactone. During those few weeks I had two of my friends audiophiles visiting over and they were both agreeing about how good Burson was holding its position as preamplifier. It seems both pure A class and stepped resistor attenuator gives the required fluidity, that performed admirably well for HA-160D given price. It’s about its range for sure.


With both USB and and Coaxial inputs, Burson HA-160D can be used as your digital hub for both headphone listening and speaker system delight. I had great experiences with both of digital inputs. Never had any problems with locking any of my Windows machines, Macbook Air or Imac to HA-160D. Handling with DAC duties of Burson is as easy as it gets. You simply choose your digital input from the front end with the soft relay switch and the right led blinks.

Ins and outs
Having Burson in a company of Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold DAC, Lampizator Leve 4, Kingrex UD384 there way plenty of choices to compare Burson HA-160D to. Everyone of mentioned DAC’s holds its own character when it comes to conversion. Its mind-boggling how many option one have this days and its even more confusing how to make a balanced system with all of the DAC choices on the market.

Burson HA-160D DAC is perhaps most analog like from the bunch being reviewed. While Lampizator level 4 goes a bit forward in the land of natural timbre thanks to the build in tubes, HA-160D thanks to its pure class A and discrete output stages it’s darn close. Do not forget, that Lampizator is like 4 times more expensive. HA-160D perhaps doesn’t have the resolution in the highs as Antelope Zodiac Gold, but I’m not missing it. It depends on your system synergy and in my case I have more then enough resolution coming from Lamm LL2 and Mactone MH-300B. So HA-160D brings music fluidly and transparent, with perhaps just a slight more rounded and warm highs, that goes in the service of music and not being harsh as it can often happen with some other high-res DAC. I loved the outcome.

Headphone amplifier

This is where all the cream comes together in a palatable audio dish of pure pleasure. This sounds almost poetic J. In my past reviews of headphone systems I wrote many times, that carefully selected headphone amplifier and headphones will give you a performance, that you’ll hardly accomplish with 30k speakers. Years passed by, nothing changed. This still holds as true and perhaps even more strongly there are always problems with room acoustics, synergy, cables and all the little nuances needed to be refined, when planning a speaker listening system. You can go also fully nuts with separate components in headphone listening, but it wont change the more then often pains and troubles of mismatch, synergy etc. We can hear the difference in cables for example very quickly within speaker-based system. What to talk about headphone rig. You’ll notice the character of interconnect instantly.

Let me focus here shortly on Sennheiser HD-800 and Burson HA-160D combination. This is simply a winning combination and a desert island duet outlet J. With both digital and analog inputs you’re more then served for any front ends in serving you music until your ear bleed. There is no interconnects, no separate DAC and preamplifier boxes, no hassle with too many power cables… Just take a trouble of finding time for siting down and listening to your music. Pair it with your laptop, Ipad or any of your favorite musical front ends and you’ll in instant bliss in no time. Combination of Sennheiser HD-800 and Burson HA-160D will give you a dynamic impact, that brings all the glories of well balanced system; decay, sense of the space, analog like presentation, sense or timber and articulation. As my good audiophile friend say. This combination is for pure music lovers. It’s a direct hit into your audiophile veins. It’s impressive how this combo evoke such an emotions from people being in this our bellowed passion of listening music for over 30 years. More people should dive in into headphone listening.

No speaker like headphone speaker. No amp like headphone amp!

Burson HA-160D is a music machine for music lovers, audiophiles and headphone fans. This is a true standout, which will take you over boundaries of your expectations in the way of the sound and music being replayed. Burson HA-160D doesn’t compete in the race of the highest specs (thanks God) and for me this is a winning quest on their behalf. HA-160D is a machine that’s serves the music. In what regard? Being an analog fan, I could instantly click with the HA-160D mojo. It holds a remarkable analog like character, that always reminds me of the best qualities of natural music and vinyl reproduction. With Burson chosen topology, they manage to combine a fine analog like presentation of music being let through their proud silver audio baby.

This is the product that I can label as a new wave of audiophile grade components built great and priced right. Not to forget mentioning that it’s sounding great.

Burson HA-160D is not another jack-of-all-trades master of none. It will perform great as a stand-alone solution for your headphone listening nirvana and acting remarkable on duties of preamplifier and in heavy duty of converting you zeros and ones into music.

I'm looking for upcoming test of Burson power amp. This will reveal even further Burson Audio passion and depth of their passion and love for music. 

Highly recommended! Period!


Input impedance: 36.5 KOhms 
Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 - 20Khz
Signal to noise ratio: 110dB
THD: <0.12% at 150mW , 0.06% at 100mW
Channel separation: <54dB
Output power: 250mW (less than 1% distortion)
Output impedance: Pre-out 60 Ohms, phones out 5.6 Ohms
Power dissipation: >25W, internal, regulated power supply

1 x USB Connection (Support up to 24bit @ 96Khz with 10ppm low jitter clock)
1 x Coaxial RCA (Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz)
3 x gold plated RCA (line level input)

2 x headphone jacks 6.35mm
1 x pre -out with 10Db gain

Package Content
• 1 x HA-160D Headphone amp / Pre amp / DAC

• 1 x Power cable

• 1 x RCA pair input cable

• 1 x RCA coaxial digital cable

• 1 x USB cable

• 1 x User Manual (including 24 months warranty registration information)

Weight: app. 6 kg
Colour: silver anodized aluminium


265 mm x 250 mm x 80 mm


Matej Isak Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine All rights reserved, 2012 www.monoandstereo.com www.myaudioshop.com