Mac Pro (ALAC) –> Cardas Clear USB –> Burson HA-160D (High Impedance Output) –> HD600 w/ Cardas

Powered by a Brickwall Audio filter/surge suppressor.


[Song – Artist – Album – Genre]:
1) So Nice – Diana Krall – Quiet Nights – Jazz
2) All I Ask of You – Andrew Lloyd Webber – The Phantom of the Opera – Operatic
3) Think of Me – Andrew Lloyd Webber – The Phantom of the Opera – Operatic
4) Salsa Celtica – El Sol De La Noche – Salsa Around the World – Latin
5) El Sabroson – Poncho Sanchez – Latin Jazz – Latin
6) Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams – Folk/Acoustic
7) Rodeo Clowns – Jack Johnson – On and On – Folk/Acoustic
8) Feelin’ You In Stereo – R. Kelly and Jay-Z – Unfinished Business – Rap/RnB

Systems For Comparison:
Headroom Micro Stack –> HD600 w/ Cardas
Headroom Ultra Micro DAC –> SA Millett Max (Blackgates/VitQs) –> HD600 w/ Cardas

Song Specific Impressions:
1) This is one of the first songs I turned on as it’s one of my favorites from Krall. At 19 seconds my ears perked up as I heard the most natural sounding percussion I have experienced to date. The piano has wonderful clarity and the strings behind have great warmth and impact without inundation. At 2:39 I couldn’t help but smile, such wonderful clarity.

2) I will admit I was unfamiliar with this material prior to the Burson. The sound coming from my HD600s inspired me to get some operatic tunes. Voices sound wonderful, specifically the female opera singers. The clarity and seemingly endless “float” of the high notes. Strings in the back retain all of their clarity and add to the soundstage in a pleasing way without any clouding or “bloom”. When the orchestra plays 3:18 it conveys deep emotional feeling.

3) The 160D HD600 combo sounds wonderful with this song. If you are unfamiliar with the material there is female opera solos with grand orchestral schemes throughout. The clarity and the upper register reproduction is bar none to anything I have heard.

4) Latin music is fast and textural; it should force your body to move. The Burson is no let down in this department. All of the speed, texture, and body moving emotion is conveyed while retaining clarity and impact. Woodwinds in the background are not drowned out by the percussion yet the percussion retains its impact and “mass”.

5) This is a bit of a slower, melodic sampling of Latin Jazz. It sounds just that: melodic and hypnotizing. Around 1:30 the woodwinds take center stage and come through with texture, clarity, and focus. The background continues with impact and melody while this is taking place. The highs do not get “over-aggressive” and remain quite listenable and clear.

6) I must say first I never actually noticed that there is rain in the background during parts of this song. I think that pays tribute to the silent noise floor of the Burson. The guitar has impact and texture, a bit warm but definitely what I would describe as neutral for an acoustic. This is a definite foot-tapper with this setup.

7) The decay in the intro sounds wonderful. This song has a lot going on in the soundstage yet everything retains its clarity and “smoothness” – I hope this word makes sense to anyone who has heard Jack Johnson. I can easily focus on any part of the sound and analyze it yet without focusing on any one “piece” I am truly content with the blend of impact and smooth/warm presentation.

8) Just to round out the sample tracks I had to add a track with a computer created beat and this is one of the few rap songs I consider well recorded. The bass has body and presence but does not detract from any of the clarity of the singing; an issue I had with my Millett Max. R. Kelly’s voice has great range and it is presented well whether in the lower-middle range or the higher registers.

Initial Overall Impressions:
Comparatively I would call the Burson 160D HD600 combination neutral with a slight tendency towards warmth and midrange smoothness. It carries impact and body in the lower registers, reproduces percussion “organically”, and has amazing clarity in the upper ranges especially with female voices. I have never heard the HD600s sing like this; it is an awe inspiring combination. The Burson performs with excellence across a wide range of music and I would truly recommend this to anyone looking for an amp/dac to bring their HD600s to the next level.

Happy Listening,