Pros: transparent refined sound, flexible gain stage lets you use from iems to planars
This is review of mk 2 version of this amp. I bought it from directly from Burson Australia.
Ordering experience was great from Burson. They had a clearance sale going on at that time where it was listed for $400 which is still going now. Product listing showed mk 1 but they sent me mk 2. Extra points for making me happy. I asked them what was shipping cost and they said shipping was included. I thought maybe they will use some cheap shipping method but nope. It was simply best import experience I ever had. They used fedex and amp reached me in a week total. From Australia to India including customs halt which can normally take a month, thanks to superior service by fedex. My guess is it costs Burson around $100 to ship it but they don't make a big deal out of it in their marketing. Understated and classy. I like that. This makes it close to $300 for amp alone, thats close to ifi ican or schiit asgard. You can now probably understand why I called it best value in headfi right now.
Build and packaging:
Amp is shipped in card bord box with generous foam cutouts to keep amp safe. It includes power cable and rca chords of good enough quality. You can use fancy cables if you like. Power chord is iec type, ones that are used in computers. It has on board power supply and does not use power brick. Build quality is stellar and high quality. Its made out of brushed aluminium thats smooth to touch. Not too big or heavy and you can transport it easily from one room to another or safely in its box if you plan to take it to a meet. It looks great in pictures and in real life its as good as marketing shots we see on burson site. (something I cant say about all products, ahem schiit modi/magni) It comes with 2 inputs on back and 2 gain stages switchable by relays. This makes it feel more upmarket than say dip switches. Burson branding is engraved on front face plate and looks cool. Overall stying of amp is understated and classy. One thing I liked better on mk 1 of this amp is chunky volume knob. On mk 2 they have made it a little small. It works well and rotates smooth though. Allows you to make fine adjustments easily even if you listen to iems. ( something I cannot say about portable amps with hard to rotate volume knobs and aggressive gain stages like my fiio E12.)
SQ wise I consider it worthy of using with high end hps like Sennheiser HD700, say in $800-1000 range. Its an upgrade over entry level solid state amps like ifi ican or O2. When using AKG K550 and Sennheiser HD700 on something like ifi ican, I can't justify spending more on HD700. But on burson, HD700 pulls ahead enough so that it becomes a clear upgrade. By upgrade I mean more fleshed out instruments, more meat around bones. Clearly you get closer to live performance.
On bringing something like Sennheiser HD800 in mix, I feel benefits of using higher end hps diminish slightly. HD800 offer superior resolution but not enough to be a huge upgrade. So if TOTL cans are on your shopping list I suggest you look into its elder sibling Soloist, perhaps. For high end hps (under TOTL hps) this is a perfect match and imo you are not spending disproportionately on your rig either on hps or amps.
Or if you have a set of mid fi cans like AKG k550 or philips fidelio X2 that you love and want an amp that brings out all that hp has to offer, this is a good bet.
Its transparent as far as I can tell. Presentation is on lighter side. Bass is strong and punchy. Mids are resolved and clear. Highs on hps like HD700/800 are well controlled and not at all harsh. Maybe even brighter cans it will be troublesome but with a well balanced hp like HD 700 (it has some warmth) its a stellar pairing. I also loved it with audeze lcd 3. Excellent drive and bass. Creamy mids and gobs of detail without getting harsh. On ethereal cans like AKG k550 or Beyerdynamic iDX200IE, sound is not harsh but ligher character of hp can make it too crystalline. I prefer to use warmer source when using K550 with it.
Overall its transparent enough to allow full character of hp to come out. HD700 sounds even warmer, AKG K550 sounds crystal clear, Sony XBA A1 sounds warm but still clear. Whatever is tuning on your hp it will come out like that.
Special note on IEM usage: if you thought iems have no soundstage and too in-your-head feel, try listening to them on burson soloist sl. It makes my $100 Sony XBA A1 sing. Being hybrid iems they dont have great soundstage so I thought. On burson it sounds like full sized hps. Sound comes from in front of you even when IEMs are tucked in your ears. This has increased my respect for IEMs and its those tiny amps that are at fault and not IEMs.
Soundstage wise its well layered from front to back. Hps with great soundstage like HD700 will benefit immensely from it. Has more depth than width and pin point front to back layering. Bass has its own layer and brings out multiple bass layers out very well if your hp is capable of it.
Value and conclusion:
As I have already said, its exceptional value considering its $400 shipped. And shipping method is best I can have as well. Its performs on high level and together with HD700 is hard to put down combo. My no of hours I listen to music increased after I got burson cause its so hard to put down.
I am including this note on request of Shetzu as he does'nt writes reviews.
I took it to my friends place Mr Aniel goes by handle Shetzu on headfi who used chord mojo to drive his HD800. He instantly ordered one after hearing it and its price to be used as mojo-burson-HD800 rig. That rig is best I have heard. Very transparent, amazing detail on vocals, completely alive image with great microdynamics and detail. To him biggest difference was soundstage that only proper big desktop amps can offer.