Review by Andrejs Nolle
Production Manager – Radio 3AW – Melbourne, Australia
Having worked as a Sound Engineer / Radio Producer for 23 years, I’ve seen and heard a lot of gear, and after moving house last year decided to finally upgrade my home music system.First I found new speakers – VERY difficult as I’d loved my Scan Speaks for a long time. Finally settled on AAD 2002s by legendary designer Phil Jones.
My NAD C541 made way for a Rega Saturn CDP, as their latest players were ‘apparently’ as close to vinyl as you can get (now confirmed!)Then when I recently bought the Burson Audio PI-100 amp, they suggested I upgrade to the soon to be released PI-160, and perhaps could do a short review.
Following is my original email to the folks at Burson after I first heard the PI-160 –
‘Well I powered up the PI-160 tonight. One word – WOW!
I’ve been sitting on the edge of my chair with a great big smile on my face. I intended to quickly run through a few select tracks on favourite discs, but simply couldn’t stop listening to each album (Oh no… another late night!)
Are you guys magicians or what is going on?? Simply stunning.
You killed my trusty and well-loved NAD C370… MURDERED IT! AND by the way – the C370 is no slouch… as their top of the line integrated amp cost $1400 seven years ago… won the EISA Amp of the Year Award in 2002 et al.Within moments of the Burson taking over I realised this was a whole new ball-game. Like a veil being lifted – incredible detail, layers and instruments presented that I didn’t even know about, and all so MUSICAL and BALANCED… just a joy to listen to.
Transients were dealt with in a manner I haven’t experienced before – the excitement was there… the tingle of emotion… but without the shock or ‘in your face’ irritating edginess.
Particularly since I’ve had the Rega Saturn, I had noticed the NAD showing some frequency
dependent compression, which can be startling when it jumps out at you again!
None of that nonsense with the Burson – ‘control’ is a word that comes to mind – it is definitely in control – something I’ve also noticed and loved with my new AAD speakers.
By the way, they are acknowledged as very difficult to drive. They are the most inert speakers I’ve ever encountered. Built of 1 1?2 ” MDF and lined in 3/8” of LEAD, these babies weigh a ton. Steel drivers.Recommended to have AT LEAST 100 watts a side to properly drive them, they’ll take 300 watts a side without compression.
The Burson drove them effortlessly.’
Having spent a deal of quality time with the PI-160 now, my initial excited email remains true. Team Burson recommends around 100 hours burn-in for the amp to truly ‘open up’ – and sure enough it is starting to show even more agility and *sparkle*My new Rega’s party trick is to ‘initialise’ each CD loaded, via their unique and proprietary operating system – optimising the balance between ‘error correction’ and ‘musicality’. This ‘data-mining’ has enabled the Saturn to get musical essentials such as ‘timing’ right – perhaps for the first time in an affordable (?) CDP.
Apparently musicians love it because it “boogies”!
Further, my new AADs were reviewed as being able to “turn on a dime” if fed the right power!
I can tell you the Burson does not trip up with all this ‘fancy dancing’! I will describe it as a ‘transparent conduit’ between my new source and my new ‘reference’ speakers – but with the guts and heart to make it all work, and shine!
That smile is still on my face.
The PI-160 is a serious and lovely piece of high-end gear. The minimalist and uncluttered design exudes quality, function and purpose.Its heavy case and top grade fittings hide 2 chambers, containing the enormous hand- wound toroidal transformer and one large PCB also carefully hand-built and beautifully laid out – individually signed off on by the builder.
Most important, if you LOVE listening to music – the PI-160 will be a source of constant joy.
It is simply the best integrated amp I have heard.
Rega Saturn CDP Burson Audio PI-160 integrated amp AAD 2002 speakers and stands
Nordost Red Dawn speaker cables AG-Audio Silver Foil Reference interconnects PureAV PF40 power conditioner Jungson JPOC-03 power cables Solidsteel 5.4 rack