Pros: Quality, Clarity, Crisp, Detail, Imersive, Amazing!
So after listening to various combos of Amps, Dac's and Headphones for 3 hours at a store located 70kms from me. I formed the opinion to dive in and get the combo of Sennheiser HD800 headphone + Burson HA-160DS amp/dac combo.
I'm not an audiophile with tons of experience but i went to the store with a passion to discover what does sound good and get the best available setup under $2,000.
I tried the following headphones-
Beyerdynamics - T1 3rd or 4th overall in my ranking. Good all rounder that didn't excel at anything a bit plain no character & T5p closed headset punchy but wasn't a fan and they squashed my ears a little.
Audeze LCD2 - Heavy on the head and awkward. i felt at any moment they would slip off if i tilted my head.
Sennheiser - HD650 no thanks, HD700 good a little more bass or treble - more aggressive but less clean than the HD800
AKG701 - I remember i tried them for 10 seconds and said no thanks - all i remember no good.
Ultrasone Signature DJ - Closed ear nice bass but was concerned with the control of the higher sounds at lower volumes.
Grado PS1000 - Almost got these because they have a little attitude to them, very similar to the HD800 but decided i didn't like the design and look but very very good sound. The foam ear pads felt a bit cheap and maybe they would itch me or it would degrade. although the felt not heavy on my head i just never felt comfortable with them on but maybe i could have got used to them.
So in the end i was trying the PS1000 Vs HD800 with different Amps/Dac setups with a smorgasbord of sounds and songs.
Violetric V200amp/V800Dac - Pretty damn good with the HD800 and should be considering they were used when testing R&D. Also i used them to test out all the headphones first as they were the most i was considering to spend on DAC/AMPS.
Bursons Audio - Melbourne Based company - HA - 160D & HA 160DS not much between the 2 160 models except a few different I/Os at the back. There was a higher up model again that allowed you to select 3 different levels of gain that was nice but i just couldn't justify the price difference for a mere 5 percent if that at all in audio quality from the HA- 160's.
There was another brand amp/dac but i did not like it compared to what Violectric and Bursons.
I would have loved to get the Violectric v200/v800 but its to dear and i didnt know how much a difference it would make with games. Also price tag of $2100aud for them scared me off but at least i know that is reference point for future upgrades if i want.
So i opted for the HA - 160DS they are cheaper but a reasonable solution for supplying the signal to my HD800 Headphones. They still gave the headphones the same characteristics as the higher up bursons DAC/AMP and very similar to the Violectric setup.
I discussed it with the sales guy and he said it was a good to start there and in the future i can upgrade if i turn into an audiophile. but at least i got the good headphones that have the ability and the headroom of more potential then some of the other headsets around. He showed me a few other setups that were near 9k - 10k that would max the HD800's out for potential. I dont think i will ever reach this level. it would be a total waste on me.
So went to purchase and the sales guy went out the back and informed me they had no Bursons HA-160D or DS out the back and that they were coming in today or tomorrow. they then offered me the higher up ( not the 160) dac/amp for a $100 less and i said its really to much for me at this time. Im already going out on a limb for the HD800. They then offered me the demo stock of the 2 HA-160D & HA-160DS. i saw no value in the D model and went for the DS which had $200 knocked off it from RRP. and i also got $150 off the HD800 headphones. The HA - 160ds even came in its original box they repackaged it and best thing was i knew how that amp/dac sounded only thing is was $200 off the RRP acceptable for second hand audio equipment?
Beautiful box and packaging the HD800 came in. It like a coffin the way it padded. The serial number on the headphones band is nice touch and the look and style of them are very distinct. its like looking at a stealth bomber the angles and curved all work together. The comfort of these is 2nd to none! best best ergonomic headphones ive ever felt. the weight is perfect and the grip on your head is perfect and you never feel like they are going to slip or move on you. I tried them with the nvidia nvision 2 glasses and i never got sore from the pressure of the ear pads on the frames. The length of cable is a little concerning at the moment 3m of cable on my desk LOL but there is other interchangeable cables with the HD800.
Windows 8 - Plugged in power supply and usb cable into back of computer and back of DAC/AMP. Turned on power switch at the back of the unit and windows found it straight away and then left for pre heat like recommended. Plugged in Headphones and away i went.
I was worried about the open ear design. will it allow to much in around me or what i hadn't thought of till i tried them in store is what they let out. Damn they are loud! But when i tried them at home they weren't to bad at all. When sound is going through them you dont here anything from the outside world. maybe that's just me? Maybe i was just immersed in the sound. Also there is enough things going on making noise in my house already and it didn't even bother my missus and when i let her try them i was the same you here little bits here or there from 10 feet away, so no problems. But if they were more portable i wouldn't want to be next to someone on a plane with them. Also for those on planes a lot like myself i reckon the Beyerdynamics t5p is the way to go. low impedance of i think 32ohms and 3.5mm plug.
Music at home -
Incredible brought all my favorite songs to life in FLAC. Even songs you don't like you appreciate whats going on with the sounds and clarity. It such a change for me that i used to only listen to music in the car and on the plane now i can see myself just sitting in a recliner (that i don't have yet) and enjoying the beauty and serenity of it all.
I didn't know what to expect when i got home. I know how music sounds but gaming sounds. will they be good enough quality for the HD800s and will the HD800's have enough bass because i read a lot of forums and reviews claiming they are a little lite on the bass. I tried to test the HD800s with various songs from Michael Jackson's hits and they did sound so good that i started laughing with joy in the store, people looked at me like *** lol. And that's when i was sold on them! I just knew! The only way to describe it is having your eyes shut and a glass falls off the bench in the kitchen and you hear it smash into a million pieces and yet when you open your eyes it never happened! But it seamed so real??? This is for every noise/churp/whistle/drum/voice!!! everything recreated perfect on the HD800. No other headphones had this. That is why i chose them and with gaming it plays out the same. Unfortunately i bought COD:BO2 this year and what a disappointment but i found myself dominating flanking with ease. numerous times i would go the opposite way to my team mates stop for a second and sure enough i could pin point if i had anyone near me and many times i was hooking in behind the other team picking off 3 and even 4 at a time depending if i had a suppressor. The foot steps are so clear and the random in game sound add to the atmosphere and the bombs/grenades that go off near you make you jump. Even when shooting your gun it sounds real and their is a distinct difference in volume in how far objects noise is to you. I basically have found love again for COD because of this Headphones and DAC/AMP. And the fact that i would look at the score tally in game and i was dominating with ease.
I spent $2200 on 2x GTX TITANS. To me this is like that sort of upgrade.
Will i upgrade the DAC/AMP in the future? i dont know. I'm pretty happy with the setup and I cant imagine anytime soon thats for sure.
Games have transformed for me. Music will never be the same unless its played through the HD800s. I highly recommend.
3 words to some up the HD800 = Clarity + Realism + Detail.
Burson HA - 160DS (Amp/Dac) $895aud
Sennheiser HD800 (Headphones) $1695aud
I hope this was helpful and any questions are more than welcome!