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Burson Audio Play

Rating:
4.75/5,
  1. raoultrifan
    Probably the best DAC/headamp for inside PC use!
    Written by raoultrifan
    Published Jan 22, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Able to play WAV, APE, MP3, FLAC etc. but also DSD x64, x128, x256 formats natively, without any clicks when switching between source format
    - Need no drivers for OS Sierra nor for Windows 10 (however, Burson is providing dedicated custom drivers for Windows 10)
    - Very good, detailed and neutral sound, especially when using audiophile headphones
    latest generation USB transporter chip followed by a very detailed Reference DAC connected to a very powerful Class-A amplifier makes it easy to use most headphones out there, even planars
    - One of the best DAC/headamp combo for opamp rollers
    - Headphones protection circuit with relay (for DC-output, but also if you connect dual instead of single opamps in the pre-amplification stage)
    - Able to get the power either from included PSU, either from the PC's PSU (only the +12V)
    Cons - Take care when pairing the PLAY with sensitive IEM
    - Volume/gain could be a bit higher when pairing with sensitive 16-32 ohms headphones, so notch down the volume knob to somewhere between 5 to 10 before connecting the headphones!
    - If choosing the V5/V6 solid-state op-amps version of PLAY, then price could be a bit on the higher side, but the Basic version of PLAY is definitely a very good alternative, getting the most juice from your money.
    BURSON PLAY

    I received this wonderful DAC/headamp combo a couple of weeks ago from BURSON-Australia to give it a listen and write a detailed review here, many thanks to Charles for that. This is what I did actually, I gave it an over 200 hours of burn-in combined with intensive listening tests, mostly Jazz (oldies, but also contemporary), Blues, Rock, Classic music and Club hits as well, so I did covered most genres of music I usually listed to.


    Photo: BURSON courtesy

    For me, as a computer engineer, but also an electronics-hobbyist, it's very important what's "inside the box" and how the device measures, but also what kind of components manufacturer is using when building the final product.

    Well, I was amazed that inside the PLAY Burson was using same high-quality components like in a high-end device: Dale resistors, ELNA Silmic II and ELNA Tonerex capacitors. Given the 5.25" form factor and Burson recommendation this DAC/headamp combo was designed with PC users and PC gamers in mind, so given the "target audience" I wasn't really expecting such audiophile-like components inside.


    Inside components view


    Powerful Class-A transistors amplifier


    Gold-plated plugs and protection circuitry


    Backside view of the PCB (see the ground-plane)

    Now I'm going to dig into this baby a little bit.

    The USB module is connected to the mainboard through a 7-pin adapter, so it's easy to take it apart and swap it for another module, in case of RMA for example. Also, this modular design makes possible a future upgrade, in case BURSON might think there's place for improvement. Who knows, maybe an USB 3.0 card or a SPDIF or RIAA converter or perhaps a newer XMOS chip or...just my imagination? :) The inside firmware can be future upgradable via the 3 volts 4Mb 25P40VP serial flash memory: M25P40 Serial Flash Embedded Memory - Micron Technology, Inc.. Entire USB module is getting the +5V power from a dedicated LT1085 low-noise regulator, so no power noise & ripple should get injected from the PC's power supply.


    XMOS USB module

    There's a low-power USB hub controller on the USB module, GL850G connected to onboard dedicated 12 MHz crystal. This has an 8-bit RISC processor inside that quickly responds to USB host requests. This USB hub should minimize PC's USB host ripple and noise and also to power the USB chip via the internal low-noise regulators.

    The USB transporter is a XMOS XU-208 chip from the latest generation on the market, xCORE-200: XU208-256-TQ64. This is a 32-bit chip powered by 8 x real-time logical cores running at a frequency of 500 MHz. It gets the clock from the onboard 22 MHz and 24 MHz oscillators.

    By the Digital-to-Analog conversion is taking good care the Reference DAC chip developed by ESS, ES9018K2M, getting the clock from the onboard 100 MHz oscillator. This is a high-performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter able to natively decode both PCM and DSD formats with a dynamic noise up to 127dB and a THD+N of -120dB. It has also a digital volume control and an internal DSP with built-in "click-free" soft mute feature to suppress any possible popups when switching between PCM and DSD or vice-versa.


    ESS DAC and the low-noise power regulators

    The DAC chip is powered via the supplied +12V power source that is later lowered to +5V by a dedicated LT1085 low-dropout & low-noise regulator (different LDO than the one used to power the USB module), then gets lowered again to +3.3V by the ultra low-noise CMOS linear regulators ADP150 made by Analog Devices (9uV RMS across 10 Hz to 100 KHz).

    Moving from the XMOS USB interface and ES9018K2M DAC further till headphones output plug, the PLAY version with SS V5/V6 opamps included is probably the only DAC/headamp combo designated for use inside a PC case that is using from head to tail only discrete components. Yes, transistors and high quality passive components, without any integrated chips in signal path, because the SS V5 and SS V6 operational amplifiers are 100% discrete and not regular IC chips! Also, I was unable to identify any capacitors in signal path either, by the DC output voltage is taking care an additional protection circuit that acts a relay on headphones 6.3 mm plus.

    Microphone mono 3.5 mm jack is connected to the HS-100B chip which acts as Analog-to-Digital converter in this scenario. This is a 48K / 44.1KHz Sampling Rate Analog to Digital converter that convert signal getting from the microphone to digital PC format. It actually measures very well for a input source for microphone:


    Microphone/IN frequency response


    Microphone/IN signal response for 1 KHz signal

    The output sound of the PLAY is having a pristine clarity, a very good soundstage, clear and upfront voices with extreme details in instrument reproduction. While listening to DSD Scott Hamilton - Ballads for Audiophiles I was able to detect on my headphones the correct positioning of every instrument on the scene, it's like being able to listen to all micro-details properly and to enjoy the music in a large soundstage. I was also amazed by how saxophone sounds while listening to more DSDs with Coleman Hawkins and Charles Lloyd; this is actually the best DSD DAC player I have at home at the moment and I really think the sound of the DSD format on the PLAY is awesome. I was specifically listening to jazz and sax because I'm very sensitive to this type of music and if doesn't sounds right then my ears are easily getting irritating (not the case with PLAY!).

    PLAY measures very well too, perhaps a little bit better than the original specs; I've found no channel imbalance and a perfectly flat frequency response, combined with a neutral sound on both RCA and 6.3mm plugs:


    Frequency response


    Dynamic range & noise levels


    1KHz frequency response


    Jitter


    Impulse response

    The 2-Watts Class-A inside amplifier is able to easily drive both dynamic and planar headphones, from up to 600-ohms. As you can see from the below picture, I was able to push it to 7.4V RMS with 1KHz signal/30-ohms, meaning 1.825W/30-ohms of power on each channel. In case you're wondering how can it get about 2W/channel from a 12V PSU: no, it actually can't, so there are inside a couple of converters able to pump-up +/-15V to the opamps and to the transistors from the output stage.


    1 KHz perfect sinewave

    Nevertheless, this is one of the best Hi-Fi equipment for PC's where opamp rollers can successfully test their preferred opamps in I/V, LPF and Voltage Amplification stages. I've successfully tested myself lot of opamps without issues: BURSON SS V6 Classic & Vivid, BURSON SS V5, BURSON V5i, NE5532, LM4562, LME49720, NJM2114, OPA2132, OPA1652, OPA1602, AD8599, AD8672, MUSES8820, MUSES8920 etc. However, you need to take very good care of opamp "polarity" (pin1 should connected correctly) and try not mixing single with dual opamps or vice-versa (respect Burson's included schematic).

    Variable volume control makes possible interconnection with active monitors/speakers, so I've took the opportunity to connect my Mackie MR6mk3 monitors and the MR10Smk3 subwoofer. Besides the volume potentiometer no other adjustments were needed, just plug and play and output sound was perfect into my ears, no EQ or DSP filters needed...it just sounded right from the 1st second. However, volume level was setup around 42% to get the desired 2V RMS on PLAY's RCA outputs, so I can correctly feed my Mackie speakers.

    Using SS V6 Vivid in all DIP8 sockets sound gets more upfront, especially women vocals, but also the cymbals. If low-bitrate MP3 are going to be listen then prepare to hear every little encoding imperfection, because these opamps are more crispy and detailed oriented, but without harshness.

    The SS V6 Classic are a bit more laid-back, with a detailed and a bit larger scene, totally neutral and very good for monitoring. The SS V6 Classic I liked most in the pre-amplification stage, so I intend to use them from now on all my devices on voltage amplification stage (already using with success it in my Matrix M-Stage HPA-3B).

    Remote control is slim and fits nicely in my hands and the battery is easy to replace, based on the backplate that is kept in place by the 4 small magnets:


    Remote control

    There are accessories to connect the PLAY inside the PC case with ease, just unmount your PC, mount the below bracket, connect the included USB cable to your motherboard USB port. The included RCA-RCA cables are short and meant for use inside your PC to connect the RCA plugs of the PLAY to the RCA output bracket.

    PC connection kit


    Included gold-plated RCA cables

    PLAY has a very good instrument separation, very neutral and with a good soundstage, not huge but also not very intimate. The final sound can easily get changed by swapping the opamps, so feel free to add your own flavor here.

    CONCLUSION: Probably the best and the only DAC/headamp combo designed to fit inside a PC case that is using a XMOS chip for USB transport and a fully discrete Class-A amplifier. At least I'm not aware of any other manufacturer providing such a powerful amplifier for a PC soundcard/combo. Most manufacturers are relying on integrated opamp output buffers, which is fine, of course, but under no circumstances would compete with a 2W Class-A transistors output stage.

    Note: I don't have a perfect tool to do the noise measurements, but my good old ASUS U7 has a really low-noise ADC (around -110dB).

    Latter Edit #1: I am adding a new image with the new PLAY version created by BURSON: PCB revision 2.2. In respect with some of us that prefer listening to very sensitive 16-32 ohms cans, BURSON was able to create new PCB revisions (v2.1 and v2.2) that are having a lower background noise to better accommodate with sensitive headphones.

    IMG_1341 copy.jpg

    I've also tested the Basic version of PLAY (rev. v2.2) that costs only $299 and I realised that this is the best buck for the buck at this moment. Actually, I'm not aware of any other external USB DAC with such a powerful Class-A headphone amplifier at <$500, hence my initial rating of 4.5* is getting upgraded to a clear 5*. Great job BURSON!

    Latter Edit #2: In the past couple of weeks I was testing latest available std. version of PLAY with Hifiman HE-560 headphones and I must say that lot of synergy is there. The powerful solid-state output stage can easily drive these planar cans even when listening at lower volume. When moderate-to-high volume is used, bass is striking with authority, but without impacting the mid-bass or the midrange in any ways. Seems than both planar cans tested in my review (Fostex TP-50RP MKiii and Hifiman HE-560) are a 110% match with PLAY, so I can strongly recommend the PLAY for use with planar headphones, because it is able to drive them at least as well as it does with dynamic cans too.
      DarKu, shigzeo, pedalhead and 3 others like this.
    1. pedalhead
      THIS is how to do a review. Great stuff, cheers.
      pedalhead, May 22, 2018
      raoultrifan likes this.
  2. Barra
    Kicking $299 Audio Expectations to the Curb
    Written by Barra
    Published Jan 18, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Price and performance at top notch, huge bang for the buck.
    Cons - Could be a little wider in the sound stage if I split hairs
    Play Overview.png

    To be honest, at a price point of $299 compared to my $2700 Chord Hugo 2, I wasn’t expecting much. I was just expecting to beat my computer’s ASUS motherboard built-in upgraded audio which is lackluster at best and to be more convenient as a permanent attachment to my computer. Mission accomplished! However, I am finding the PLAY to be way more capable than that and has opened my eyes to new possibilities.

    What I didn’t expect was that the PLAY standalone through USB is driving my LCD2.2, my HD800s, and my extensive collection of CIEMs to their full potential. Yes, there are different flavors and better equipment, but if I didn’t mention that the sound wasn’t coming from my much more expensive gear, listeners would assume it was. This is not a dig at my more expensive gear, but a complement to a very capable Burson PLAY.

    Configuration
    The PLAY (basic) was built with PC gaming in mind to bring rich audio to gameplay. My hope was to install it into an open DVD bay and to have easy access to good sound without having to set up my more expensive chain. The PLAY as a modular design that is meant to either sit nicely on a desk or to be slipped neatly into a computer case and powered by the PC. As you can see from the back panel image below, there is a standard PC power plug allowing it to be powered from the case.

    Play Back.png

    As you can see from the model options below, the PLAY comes in configurations ranging from my Basic $299 configuration to the upgraded Opamp options V6 Vivid or Classic at $549. This review is based on the Basic $299 configuration, so as you can imagine, I am very interested to hear what the upgrade can offer.

    Play Options.png

    The Burson Play features the SABRE32/ESS9018 DAC chip and Xmos USB receiver chip. Both are technological benchmarks in the audiophile industry. To minimize distortion, the Play is tuned to operate in pure Class-A. Outputting 2000 mWatt per channel, it is over 20 times more powerful than the next best soundcard. To top it off, the Play features a high-performance mic input and fits into any PC case elegantly.

    For this review, I have the PLAY set up on my desktop across from my computer using a longer USB cable to reach my audio table next to my Hugo 2 and my Eddie Current ZDs tube amp. I have the required XMOS driver installed from the Burson website. My plan is to pair my library of headphones and CIEMs with the Play as well as try using the PLAY DAC with my ZDs to see how those two play together.

    How does it Sound
    To put it simply, it sounds like an audiophile headphone DAC/amplifier. The 9018 DAC chip is a well-known performer in audiophile circles….. when implemented correctly – and the implementation is outstanding in the PLAY. The key theme for the PLAY sound signature is a detailed, dynamic, and black background. While there is no color, there is a welcome richness to the bottom end offered through the highly dynamic quality. The dynamics and the bottom end offer a richness to the detail with gobs of texturing. The colorless black background is almost eerie and abyss like that provides superb spacing between the instruments. The soundstage is nice, but not the widest that I have heard. It feels deeper than wide offering great layering. While the detail is the star of the show, the texturing offers a natural organic feel to the resulting sound.

    What is important about the Play sound is that there is no sound or signature, the play gets out of the way to allow you to listen and enjoy your music. Often equipment offers a mix of results that sound great with some genres or songs, but not with others. Not with the Play. It is a very neutral and flat response with full-sized instruments, much like listening to a good speaker system. While neutral and flat may sound boring, I assure you that this is not the case, the Play offers a very dynamic, textured, and detailed window with a large sound stage.

    How does it Pair
    For the most part, I listened to the Play using my HD800. However, I have a wide variety of CIEMs and HPs to try. I even added my Eddie Current ZDs tube amp to the mix to determine how the DAC scales with higher-end equipment. Here is what I found:

    • Sennheiser HD800: To dial in my HD800, I use SonarWorks True-Fi adding what I need to be truly satisfied with the HD800 signature – more texture, dynamics, and bass/sub-bass. This is the same setting I use when I listen through my Hugo 2 or my Hugo 2 > Eddie Current ZDs setups. When just listening to the Play without a direct comparison, there is little to notice as I don’t feel like I am missing anything. In fact, the Play feels like it has a little more power than the Hugo 2. Either way, the HD800 feels like it is giving all it can give leaving nothing to be desired from any of the three setups. The Play is a great pairing with the HD800 offering lots of power to drive the headphone’s higher 300-ohm impedance. Often on lesser setups, the HD800 can sound congested in busy passages or bottom out with big bass booms – but not happening on the Play. Lesson devices can sound noisy that detracts from the gobs of HD800 detail – again, not so on the Play. Great pairing.
    • HiFiman HEX: There is nothing unexpected here as the HEX sounds good on anything including an iPhone. However, there is the occasion that a cheap source can make the HEX sound bright. This is not the case with the Play, as it is a very nice pairing providing everything the HEX is famous for.
    • Audeze LCD2.2: The LCD2’s are known for gobs of godly bass and always deliver including with the Play. However, this is my least favorite pairing as the LCD2 can be particular in the source to offer its best. While the LCD has clarity and slam with the Play, it doesn’t have the larger soundstage that some setups have to offer….that is until I add the EC ZDs. Now I am hearing what I am after. The Hugo 2 ZDs goes wider in soundstage, but without a direct comparison, the Play is good enough.
    • 64 Audio A18 CIEMs: Booooom….wow, this is the biggest I have heard the A18 bass. While it is almost too much stepping on the mids a little, I am enjoying it very much. Moving to songs with less bass, the dynamics get very snappy but very controlled with no slop. The snaps are crisp, the guitar is very plucky. If I have any complaint, it would be that the sound stage on the A18 is compressed a little compared to the Hugo 2 source it usually is paired with. While this is a great pairing, I like the Mason pairing better. However, I have to say that the a18 is sounding very big and full sized which is "mucho" fun. Moving to the Play > ZDs, there is a big noticeable upgrade in a18 performance as it is liking the ZDs tube sound better.
    • Empire Ears Legend X CIEMs: The LX says hell ya to the Play. It sounds wonderful. The LX is known for its dual subwoofers which are very tight and controlled with the Play. These sit on top of the Empire Ears famous Zeus SQ to provide a complete audiophile home stereo sound. The dynamics are very punchy while the black space in between the instruments stays very dark and clean. This is a wonderful pairing. This pairing is bringing the voices front and center and offering a lot more emotion to the mix. Like the a18, my only complaint is that I have heard a wider sound stage on other gear, but I am being fussy. Moving to the Play > ZDs, I trade some of the blackness for euphonics and richness. I also get some of the soundstage back. Both ways, the details are intense.
    • Unique Melody Mason V3 CIEMs: The Mason is my favorite CIEM for voice – male and female - and is a wonderful all-rounder that grows on you over time as does the HD800 (implemented correctly). They offer gobs of detail and texturing with black space and sound stage galore. This plays into all the strengths of the Play as the pair very well together. In fact, this is the best I have ever heard the Mason sound.
    • Eddie Current ZDs Tube Amp: When pairing with the ZDs, I am focused on the SABRE 9018 DAC implementation. My comparable is the Hugo 2 which is a much more expensive custom DAC so we are not comparing apples for apple price wise, but it is interesting anyway. By itself, the 9018 implementation disappears into the ZDs tube goodness as it should offering intense detail, black space, and texturing that is enhanced by the ZDs. The pairing is wonderful allowing the ZDs to provide a very lifelike and compelling dynamics and texturing that brings out the nuances that are available in your music selection. There is nothing lacking in this matchup and the results are spectacular. However, in a direct A/B comparison (via source selection switch on the ZDs panel) with the Hugo 2, there are some subtle, but noticeable differences that make the Hugo 2 better….. surprise. Regardless, they are subtle and without a direct A/B comparison, only the most advanced audiophile may notice. The advantages the Hugo 2 offers for the additional $2500 is a slight increase in the soundstage with a bit more of the holographic goodness that the Hugo 2 is known for as well as a smoother treble integration. As a result of this comparison, I will likely keep the Play connected to the ZDs to free up the Hugo 2 for mobile duties as it has an internal battery.
    Pictures
    IMG_0372.JPG IMG_0373.JPG IMG_0374.JPG IMG_0375.JPG IMG_0376.JPG IMG_0377.JPG IMG_0378.JPG

    Conclusion
    As the title says, this audition kicked my $299 expectations of the Play to the curb. For 99 percent of the music listeners out there, the Play is good enough – no need to go any further. Most will not be able to tell the difference in quality in direct comparison to my $2800 Hugo 2. However, for us 1 percenters that want to see how much further we can go…. the V6 Vivid or Classic upgrade kit is shown in the table above may prove to be irresistible. What does that extra $250 have to offer? I may have to find out so I can offer an update.
    1. NymPHONOmaniac
      Gotta love 9018. Nice review.
      NymPHONOmaniac, Jan 28, 2019
  3. holden4th
    The V6 Vivid PLAY Punches Above It's Weight
    Written by holden4th
    Published Oct 3, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - A wide and reasonably deep soundstage giving a lot of the music I listen to a sense of ‘space’ between the instruments.
    Outstanding separation of instruments, pinpointing their exact position in the soundstage.
    Clarity across the whole audio spectrum.
    Great musicality and a non-fatiguing sound.
    Tonal accuracy
    Power that effortlessly drives all my headphones
    It makes me want to keep listening to the music
    Cons - I wonder if a gain switch might have been useful for sensitive iems
    Burson PLAY V6 Vivid DAC/Amp


    There have already been some reviews of the various iterations of the PLAY. I’ve had mine for a few months now and it’s time to comment.


    My foray into the world of headphone amplifiers occurred because I bought a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pros. I bought them for their isolation and their sound as they were well reviewed. It was at this point that I discovered that the resistance in ohms of a pair of headphones doesn’t necessarily reflect how easy or hard it is to drive them. They are a modest 64ohms but I discovered that they needed a good amp to drive them properly.


    So I set about finding amps that would do the job. I bought a couple of passive ones from Behringer which were so-so and while researching for something better I discovered the concept of having a standalone DAC included with the amp. This is very important, especially if you listen via Windows though a PC. I eventually settled on the Fiio E7/E9 combination. The difference this combo made was significant via a direct digital stream (kernel) or ASIO and I was happy for a while with what I was hearing.


    After buying a pair of HD580s, I realized that that my Fiio combo was not really going to cut it for these excellent cans. I put up with the Sennheiser ‘veil’ for quite a long time but this year I decided to do something about it. I didn’t want to spend ridiculous money but also wanted quality. There were things out there that met both criteria. This included looking at tube DAC/amps as I realised that amplifier power was vital if I wanted to lift the Senn ‘veil’ and a good tube amp could do this for me. The one that repeatedly came up was the Cavalli CTH/Grace DAC combo but there was disquiet about the DAC quality of the Grace. I thought I’d go for it anyway and was waiting for the next Massdrop when the PLAY came up on the radar. Apparently it had buckets of power, the DAC was good, it was an amazing price, I could roll the Op Amps and……it was Australian!


    I got the V5i from an Aussie audio company called Addicted to Audio (it was cheaper than getting it from the US). After a month the power supply died. They replaced the PLAY without a quibble and I got them to send me the V6 Vivid instead. I knew from the V5i that burn in was going to be important, hence the wait before making a review.


    I’ll not go into details about the construction of the PLAY except to say that the chassis of both the V5i and the V6 were/are slightly warped. When I put the little silicon feet on, the PLAY rocked from front left to back right. Adding thicker and larger feet has solved this and also moved it up from the surface of my wooden table. This hopefully helps with heat dissipation. The supplied 6.25” to 3.5” adaptor has a flexible entry point which I think is a great idea. No matter how much the cable is moved, the flexible ring compensates meaning almost no stress on the cable where it terminates at the connector. I initially thought that the headphone socket was loose until I carefully looked at how it worked.


    I run the PLAY out of a 2012 iMac via USB. My headphones consist of Flare iems (R2A, Pro and Gold), Senn IE80s and the Senn HD580s. I bought the PLAY with the 580s specifically in mind and wasn’t worried about the Flares as they are easier to drive. With all three versions of the Flares I run the PLAY volume control somewhere between 5 and 11. It depends on the type of music and the source. The volume goes up for the 580s and I have had it as high as 27 though I noticed that I could pull the volume down lower as the PLAY did it’s burn in. EDM, Deep House, Trance, and all the modern genres via Tidal and Spotify require less volume. Classical music with the iems through these online streamers requires pushing the volume up a few more notches or even further. I like the fact that this gives me much more control over small volume adjustments and I wonder if some sort of gain switch might have been a good idea or alternatively smaller steps on the digital volume control.


    So what does the PLAY do to the music I listen to? I’d like to describe the PLAY as neutral but it isn’t. There is a slight lean towards the warmer side of the sound spectrum but not by too much. I like this but it’s not necessarily a bass centric effect. It depends on the track being played. If the bass is already there then the PLAY will bring it out. If it’s not then it won’t. The same goes for mids and top end. In other words the PLAY is very revealing and poorly mastered recordings will be ruthlessly exposed.


    The soundstage is something else. With iems like the Flare Golds the width is there but, more importantly, so is the depth – something I’ve never experienced before. I realise that part of this is probably the quality of the Golds but the source has to have it in the first place. With the Fiio combo it’s hard to hear any depth at all. I also notice it when using the 580s with the PLAY. On a well-mastered chamber music recording like the Pavel Haas Quartet playing Dvorak string quartets you can hear that the musicians are sitting in a semi-circle. This is particularly evident with Golds but the 580s produce it too.


    Bass extension is excellent and the PLAY added bass to the Senns that I didn’t think they had. The bass is quick, deep and very accurate with little to no bloom (recording dependent of course).


    The mids are so smooth and stand out well. Someone described the PLAY as producing a V shaped sound but I don’t hear this at all. The midrange, so important for vocals, holds its own and doesn’t appear recessed in any way.


    Treble is also excellent and non-fatiguing. It’s very clear but doesn’t suffer from the brightness you can get for some treble centric systems.


    Tonal accuracy is something that I value highly considering the amount of classical music I listen to. There are a few instruments that are very hard to reproduce. These include the human voice, stringed instruments from the violin family and, with its complex harmonics, the piano. Of course headphones are going to play a big part in this but once again, if the source of the music is compromised then no matter how good your cans are you won’t get the ideal sound. The PLAY is outstanding in this regard. Its faithful reproduction of some of my best CDs is outstanding and I’m hearing things I didn’t realize were in the recordings.


    Back to the beginning, I bought the PLAY with HD580s in mind. Could it lift that ‘veil’ that has been evident for all the time I’ve had them. The answer is an unequivocal YES! The PLAY makes the Senns do what Axel Grell originally designed them to do – sing! The 580s were revolutionary when they came out and still stand alongside today’s open back cans at a much higher price and the PLAY highlights this fact. This alone has justified my purchase. However, as they say in the commercials, “But wait, there’s more” They also improved how my Flares performed which I didn’t think was possible. The added a sense of musicality that has had me enjoying everything I’ve listened to. They increased all of the good things (sub bass, out of head sound stage, clarity, etc) that the Flare GOLDs are known for.


    So overall, what stands out about the PLAY for me.



    A wide and reasonably deep soundstage giving a lot of the music I listen to a sense of ‘space’ between the instruments.

    Outstanding separation of instruments, pinpointing their exact position in the soundstage.

    Clarity across the whole audio spectrum.

    Great musicality and a non-fatiguing sound.

    Tonal accuracy

    Power that effortlessly drives all my headphones

    It makes me want to keep listening to the music


    The PLAY is easily worth the money I paid for it. Many people when asking about headphone amps wonder if it will drive their HD600s/650s. This DAC/Amp is almost ideally suited to these cans but work extremely well on other top end brands. I don’t think I’ll be looking for a DAC/Amp combo for a while unless Burson can come up with a portable version. Now that would be something!
      trellus, DancingShade and B9Scrambler like this.
  4. DjBobby
    Addictive Play
    Written by DjBobby
    Published Jun 3, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Huge amount of power, warm and smooth sound. Possibility for opamps rolling.
    Cons - No gain switch, no selectable dac filters.
    This is a review of the Burson Play Basic headphone amp and preamp, made by the Burson Audio company. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Burson Audio for sending me the unit to test, review and play with it.

    The basic version uses NE5532 X 3, NE5543 X 2 opamps with 4 additional upgrades which can add up to $250 of costs, depending of your configuration. There are quite a few reviews of the Play mainly with different opamps like Vivid and Classic, but much less of the basic version.

    It comes in a big box, safely packed, togehter with RCA audio, USB digital cable, 6.5mm headphone jack adapter, 12V/6A AC/DC adapter and a slot to fit into a PC case. The dac section features Sabre’s ES9018 with 32bit/384khz dac with possibility to play DXD and DSD256.

    Burson Play 1.jpg


    Power:

    The amp section is pure Class A with no ICs on the signal path, pumping 2W into 16 Ohms and 1W into 32 Ohms.
    You can feel and hear that the Burson Play pumps quit a lot of power, and has more than sufficient current for most of the inefficient headphones out there. Although the scale goes up to 100, it was almost impossible to use it with more than 30 with any of my cans. For the rock and pop music I was moving around 12-15 with 30 reaching on some quieter classical slow tracks like Mahler’s Adagietto from the 5th symphony. The gain is insane, so maybe my first thought is going to be about the non-existent gain switch. With such a high gain and such big power, it’s kind of useless having a scale up to 100 which is impossible to be ever used. For that, the inclusion of low/high gain switch would have been welcome.

    While the Play pumps plenty of current into the lower impedance headphones, its ac/dc adapter is rated at only 12V, so I am not quite sure how much voltage is Play able to provide for the high impedance cans like Beyers DT880 with its 600 ohms impedance.

    Through the RCA out, the Play acts as an active preamp, with incredibly high output. If you want to use it with the normal amp, you need to be carefull not to blow your speakers. Play’s voltage output at the rca much exceeds the standard industry level of +-2V on line out and I was using it at about 50% to match the level of my other dacs.

    Burson Play 2.jpg

    Sound impressions:

    The music for the review included recordings, mostly hi-rez, by ZAZ, Diana Krall, Miles Davies, John Coltrane, Bob Marley, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Harry Belafonte, Daft Punk, Debussy and Ravel string quartets, Mahler 5th Symphony, Dvorak 9th, Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony and Copland's Rodeo suite.

    My general sound impression was that the Play sounds warm, with smooth treble and cultivated bass. The soundstage is very wide and gives you an impression of sitting in the 10th row of a big concert venue. There was a slight feel of the veil to the sound, which was actually welcome in many bad mastered recordings. My first thought was that by rolling opamps, it could be substianitally bettered. And there we come – the Play is incredible bang for buck, to my knowledge the best you can get for this money out there, but it makes you wanting for more. Once you start the opamp rolling journey it could turn to addictive – and well more expensive.

    Play vs SMSL M8a + Little Dot Mk2 (Mullard):

    With a lower impedance headphones Play sounded crisp, precise and with a well definded bass. The soundstage was wide and high and everything sounded bigger than through M8a+LD combo. There was a certain veil to the sound, which I suppose could be bettered by upgrading the opamps. The instruments sounded a little bit more distant than with the LD. Going for high impedance cans like T90 with their impedance swinging from 300 ohms to over 700 ohms, LD sounded much more in command with deeper bass, more body around the notes and efortless dynamic. I had a feeling that high Z cans which prefer bigger voltage swing than the Play can provide, would be happier with some OTL tube amp.

    Play vs Chord Mojo:
    Althoug the Play showed considerable ammount of detail, courtesy of Sabre dacs, compared to Mojo it sounded simpler, a little bit flat, with less colours and somehow more congested. The Mojo has an ease to its sound, more layers in the bass and sounded calmer and more in command than the Play. I guess this goes more to the advantage of the Mojo dac section which was a clear winner. The Play however, has much more power and is much more desktop solution than the battery powered Mojo.

    Burson Play 4.jpg

    Play with Senns HD650
    Listened to HD650 through the LD and the Play, Burson was a clear winner here. Although I have believed for long time that HD650 need an OTL amp to sing, the Play pleasantly surprised me with its punchy bass, detailed imaging lifting the famous Senn vail and an impressive soundstage. Great combo.

    Play with Beyers T90
    Here the LD sounded more holistic, more intimate and the voices had more human colours and far more emotions than through the Play. The main difference was the dynamic which was much clearer pronounced with the LD. I guess it has to do with much higher voltage swing of he LD. I had a feeling that the Play, despite huge current reserve was struggling to deliver efficient voltage.

    Play with AKG K702
    Here the Play was a clear winner, it smoothed K702 agressive treble, there was litteraly no sibilance, the bass was nice and easy to follow and the soundstage was just a textbook. Bob Marley's I Shot The Sheriff had something addictive to its bass through this combo, I literary couldn't stop listening it over and over again. Paired with the K702, the Play was much ahead of the LD.

    Burson Play 5.jpg

    Play as preamp (dac function):
    I’ve connected the Play through rca to an external Marantz amp, but had to be carefull about the volume. Play doesn’t have fixed output level, typically 2V, but acts as a preamp with a way to high level. Set to 50% I got the level close to the output of my other dacs. In this function it sounded surprisingly rich, with nice imaging and well defined soundstage and just a tad brighter, which is a trademark of Sabre dac chips. But this gave me a clear idea that with using different opamps, the Play could substiantially opens up and lift the slight veil which is now present in the basic setting.

    Burson Play 6.jpg

    Conclusion:
    There are more resolving dacs out there like the Chord Mojo, there are possibly fuller sounding dacs and more neutral headphones amps around, but what the Play brings into one box is definitely best bang for the buck I experienced since my headfi journey started. Already in its basic version it is unbelievable well made product, which makes you wondering how much potential is out there when you go to upgrade the opamps. The Burson Play will clean up my desktop and move some of the dacs and amps I have there to lower drawers, and take the place as my No.1 daily companion. And yes, rolling opamps will be the next step -)

    What I like: warm, smooth sound, with big reserve of power. Well built, looks nice on the desktop. The blue light looks great during night listening.
    What would I like to see: gain switch, selectable dac filters.

    And for the end - in this price category don't look further, IMHO it is one of the best all-in-one solutions. Clear 5 stars.
      trellus, Mij-Van and raoultrifan like this.
  5. WilliamLeonhart
    An audiophile amp in disguise
    Written by WilliamLeonhart
    Published May 29, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Audiophile sound in a sturdy build at a very attractive price. Plenty of power for high-impedance cans. Great upgradability and flexibility via op-amps rolling. Slick-looking remote control.
    Cons - Run warm and thus is not quite suitable to put in a gaming case.
    I could still years ago, when I went to my classmate's – who also happened to be an audiophile that got me into this hobby – and had a go with the HD650 and the DT880. I didn't quite like the Beyer, but I specifically remember falling in love with the HD650. I wanted it for my Carpenters, my Celine Dion and my Bee Gees.

    But I never bought the HD650. First thing: it costed around $400, and before there was an official distributor in Vietnam, it costed 1.5 times as much. Second: the amp might even cost more. I had numerous "run-ins" with the HD650, and each and every time I love it more only to realize that the cans were being driven by an amp even less affordable than the headphones themselves.

    Among those were the Burson HA-160 that I encountered at a meet a few months later. Yes, of all the "forget it you won't afford it" amps that I've seen, I specifically remember the HA-160 because, let's be frank, how often do you see an Australian equipment maker pop up on the map?

    30994619_2063710323883910_77459890_o.jpg
    The toys used to be out of reach...

    Fast forward to 2018 and I still live with my parents because it's the way of life in Vietnam. I'm now what the company calls "engineer level 3", I'm married with one little boy. So, while my budget has definitely increased, the likes of Burson Conductor or Woo Audio WA7 remain out of reach. (Well I did once decide to spend around $1000 on a Chord Hugo but never could bring myself to justify the price, so I sold it).

    Thankfully, it's 2018 and this headphone hobby has become more accessible. In 2016, Massdrop collaborated with Sennheiser to produce a $200 version of the HD650. Needless to say, I joined in.

    The most accessible Burson

    Yet the amp problem remains. It was the same thing that happened to my AKG Q701, which I got from Amazon for just $100. The headphones have become cheap, now how much must I spend on the amp?

    33784837_2063659723685518_1007702582950363136_n.jpg

    Here comes the Play, which start at $299. Having blown away by many of Burson's accessories (including the V5 op-amp and the Cable Pro+), I had always hoped to have a chance to review a full Burson amp. The engineering student me was amazed at the HA-160 driving the HD650; the engineer me was amazed by the Conductor driving the LCD3 Fazor. Even better: Burson is having a trial tour for the Play, the result of which is this very review you're reading.

    Let's run through some details first. AFAIK, at $300 the Play is the most accessible "completed product" from Burson. The specs are quite good: the DAC chip is SABRE32/ESS9018; the amp is pure Class A and can output 2000 mWatt per channel. You can play DSD256 with the Play, and you can also use it to output directly to headphones or pre-amp your speaker system.

    33765866_2063659753685515_6026623957136834560_n.jpg

    It also stands out as somewhat of a "pro" audio solution for gamers: while the Play looks just fine as a standalone unit, its design also allows for easy installation inside a ATX case. It also has a microphone input for streamers – ain't nothing as interesting as getting Chicken Dinner with your audiophile equipment, right?

    Unboxing and setting up

    33890817_2063659780352179_1259400890700267520_n.jpg

    As I had to pick up the Play at the airport that's 1 hour away, I actually unbox it on the bus home. The box looked good enough for any $500 product, and inside there's 2 smaller boxes that contain the accessories. I have the V5i version, so there's this sleek-looking remote control. There're also a 6.5-3.5 jack and some accessories to install the Play inside a PC case. The included USB and RCA cables are way more decent than those "gifted" with Chinese DAC/amp.

    Setting up the Burson Play to use with my PC was a breeze. Just plug it in, turn it on and Windows automatically installs the drivers. Technically it's all Plug and Play. However, if you intend to achieve the best sound available, get ASIO drivers from Burson. You can also remove the Windows default driver and force the OS to use the XMOS driver inside that package, but I honestly can't tell if there's a difference.

    Looking industrially sharp

    33808830_2063659797018844_3289869322951852032_n.jpg

    In comparison to all the other amps that have ever sit on my busy desk, the Play looks somewhat unique. The chassis is obviously rectangular and falls in line with the DVD Drives that you forsake years ago to get yourself a Wi-fi router instead. To make that shape less industrially ugly, Burson use a matte-metallic finish and add some lines on the top and its 2 sides. The result is an incredibly well-built, industrially-sharp looking unit. Everything about it screams "I'm going to last longer than your taste in Metalcore, urgh".

    There's no way I can overstate the build quality of the Play: while it's not as striking as the Conductor Play or the WA7, every detail feels premium. The knob, the gold-plated sockets, the way the upper lid fits into the lower chassis, and most of all, the volume indicator. I think at this point the volume indicator lights have become Burson's trademarks: on the industrial Play, it tones down the industrial look just a bit.

    As the Play is a review unit I'm not allowed to install it in my gaming case. Regardless, I strongly recommend everyone to use the Burson Play as a standalone unit – it'll be a worthy addition to your desk and it'll be much more convenient this way.

    The Burson sound

    33773361_2063698223681668_6998581253859442688_n.jpg
    Burson in Burson.

    Before going into the sound, I'm going to mention another special feature of the Play: it's built for a very easy op-amp rolling experience. Burson even includes a screwdriver and an extra set of 4 screws in case you ever lost one. Kudos to this company for going extra lengths to serve their customers, even those of their most accessible products.

    Naturally the first thing I did after I had spent a whole long listening session with the Play was open it and roll op-amp. After trying different combinations of Burson’s V6 Vivid, V6 Classic, V5i as well as Sparkos and MUSEs (and a bunch of cheaper options from TI), I’ve decided to stick with the Vivid dual and Classic single opamps. Yes, 3 Vivid will bring the sound much closer in line with the other, more high-end Burson amps that I've had the chance to experience in the past.

    With the HD540

    33806389_2063662863685204_8317673123298148352_n.jpg

    Let's start with the HD540. I think it's one of very few 1980s-made headphones that still have an active following on Head-fi. I have a 300 Ohm version which is really hard to satisfy: just get the wrong amp and it gives you all the symptoms of an underpowered mess: bass is muffled, highs get "broken" into sharpy pieces and the mids is shouty.

    How will the Play help? To be honest, at first I didn't like the Play with my HD540: while volume was quite easily reached at 25-30, most of the time the HD540 had a robotic feel to it. But that was with the Sparko opamps. With the V6 Vivid combo, there's an elegant bass boost that totally change the tonal picture. The highs and the mids get smoothed out, as if there's a thin version of the famed Sennheiser veil put on the HD540.

    Surprisingly enough, it was around 2 years ago that I did get the chance to enjoy this euphoric sound on my friend's HD540 & Mjolnir combo. I bought a pair for myself only to almost never find it again on my Little Dot I+, which still gives enough volume but never could recreate the magic again. I always thought it was because of the Chinese pads that I had to put on the HD540 (Sennheiser no longer produce parts for these oldies). I was wrong. I just needed a more powerful amp.

    Naturally the HD540 has become my go-to pair for all my Jazz & Fusion stuffs. I suspect the same would happen if I had a HD580 or HD600 here, but this full-bodied bass and organic rhythm must be hard to find on all other amps, especially with the "neutral" craze that has gone on for too long on manufacturers’ websites.

    With the AKG Q701

    33923746_2063659683685522_2802933564750954496_n.jpg

    Here in Vietnam we have a saying that’s roughly translated to “1 buck to buy the chicken, 3 to feed it”. Unsurprisingly, the phrase gets uttered a lot at local meets where any AKG 7-series model is present.

    Once again, the Play comes to the rescue. Burson sent me the V5i version, but I find the MUSE 8920/8820 and OP27 (bought in Japan, costing me ~15 bucks in total) to be more than adequate with the Q701. With Florence and the Machine on, many times I felt that the AKG came this close to tearing my ears off, but it never did. After a few songs, the fear of sibilance was silenced and I could focus on the details of my favorite Indie records. Treble feels extended and natural. Mids feel engaging but not glary. Strangely, all these details are presented in an extremely organized manner.

    Coming back to my favourite Jazz live album, Blues for Tony, all that exceptional drumming and bass-ing couldn't prevent me from doing my favorite thing: counting notes. While the difference with the K7xx (which is much warmer) is still night and day, the depth and more prominent presence of the bass also helps to tone down the somewhat-artificial soundstage. It's still the spacious sound AKG is known for, but it no longer feels like you're sitting in a room with weirdly-positioned speakers.

    (PS: Despite the cheap op-amps performing well and very Burson-like, I still prefer the all-V6 Vivids version to add even more warmth to the sound).

    With some Grados…

    33865517_2063659623685528_8922510213425135616_n.jpg

    Every amp has its pitfalls, and so did the Play. Many in the Play thread have pointed out that the Play v1.0 requires impedance-matching accessories to work with IEMs, otherwise there will be a constant hissing sound. I tried matching the Play with some low-impedance headphones only to find that the hiss *might* also happen on these.

    Thankfully there’s a new version to the rescue. I received the new version just last week and tested it with my Grados. The hiss is gone at all volume levels. Choosing the right op-amp combination makes the Play a pretty good choice with mids-centric headphones from Grado and Audio Technica. The downside is that upgrading from the orginial Play costs $100 (new version start at the same $300). I don’t really hear any difference on harder-to-drive cans, so if you solely rely on those, there’s no need to update.

    How is the sound? On my Grados, the Play generally improve the soundstage and clarity: the Audioengine D1 and all mobile devices/laptop will sound extremely muddy in comparison. Op-amp rolling also helps. Grados are famously colored so a set of more neutral op-amps in the Play will the best clarity for my iGrado (think of it as a more claustrophobic version of the SR60 when it’s plugged into your laptop). With the Alessandro MS2e, which is practically a tuned SR325e, a set of V6 Vivid will tame down the highs in old recordings.

    With the HD6xx

    33813957_2063662943685196_3444987023239151616_n.jpg

    Words cannot express how happy I felt that day, when I got my HD6xx. I spent hours listening to my favorite albums again, as if I were re-discovering them all over again.

    The thrill is there because the “wow factor” is not. It’s been years since I first got into this hobby, I’m no longer easily impressed by things like a supernaturally wide soundstage or “edgy” sound sig. The HD6xx has none of that. It seeks to impress no one and instead wows the true audiophile with timeless elegance: a refined, smooth and coherent sound that only a few can deliver.

    Well the Play and the HD6xx deliver. The Burson HD650 sound, years later at a fraction of the prize and an unexpected bonus: while the level of awesomeness is as much as I remember it to be, I’ve found out that HD6xx doesn’t come off as “veiled” like the HD650 used to. With the veil gone and the HD6xx giving out more details than I’d expected, I can roll opamps to tune the HD6xx to sound good on almost any genres. Putting all 5 V6 Vivid inside and there’s plenty of bass to go with your favorite Hip-hop or even Vocals-focused EDM track (like Reality by Lost Frequencies). Put V6 Classic into the single slots and the dynamics improve, making it great for Bon Jovi or any other 80s rock band.

    33870861_2063828717001952_190481176807342080_n.jpg

    A V5 in LPF and 4 V5i in I/V and single slots give me the most mellowed-out sound of all combinations: there’s not so much (dominent) bass but there’s still enough warmth and smoothness pasted all over the edges. From Spotify’s excellent Coffee Table Jazz playlist and Peter, Paul & Mary’s In Concert to my favourite album of all time, Carpenters’ Ultimate Collection, this is truly the combo to enjoy music with.

    With the HD800

    Patient readers would have noticed that I’m a sucker for colored sound – I could just go on and on about the HD800 sound as driven from my tube amp. But while the V6 Vivid brings a lot of warmth, the Play is at its core a solid-state amp. It gives more than enough volume and sound imaging on the HD800 is still crazily eyes-opening as usual, unfortunately the neutral sound really, really puts me off.

    Which bring us back to the HD800’s classic debate: is this actually the sound intended by recording engineers? If "utterly neutral" is your sound of choice, perhaps you'd be happy to get the Play to drive the famed Sennheiser (and remember to get some clean op-amps). It's just not my sound though.

    33763733_2063659660352191_3107078590030675968_n.jpg

    Regardless the Play functions perfectly as the DAC/preamp for my tube unit. I’m of the opinion that coloring should be left to amps and headphones, and that everyone should appreciate a truly neutral, clean-sounding DAC. The remote control is an added bonus, too.

    The real added bonus: Home Audio

    With the Play fitting quite well with my Aego M, I figured I could pair it with my powered speakers set: Klipsch KG4 driven by Sansui 707. Lovers of vintage audio equipment knows that clarity isn't their strong suit, so the Play's resolution certainly helps here: the sound is just so clean at times I thought, maybe I should get worse-quality cables to add some vintage-y feel to it.

    33773134_2063816440336513_1801375374899150848_n.jpg
    With a dedicated laptop.

    It's here that the Play's remote control really shines, as finding a compatible for these amps most of the time is a pain in the @ss. The Play's remote control and a wireless mouse G900 will help bring about a complete couch experience. Else, you could use Spotify, which strangely doesn't allow volume control when remote playing on anything other than an Echo.

    With this view of the Play, I also share the opinion that it should come with more input options (optical, coax and aux in). However my main source of music is Tidal/purchased AAC on laptops dedicated to playing music so the lack of optical/coax doesn't really bother me.

    But the Burson Play v1.0 is not perfect for Playing (Games)

    Even though the name is “Burson Play”, I’d like to think of this amp as “Play with Op-amp” rather than “Play games”. On practically all headphones I’ve tried except for the HD800 and Q701, the sound is still way too stereo rather than surround.

    That being said, I'm still somewhat skeptical of how surround headphones help with gaming. In 2016, I did a review on one of the top gaming headsets, the Logitech G933, only to find that while they're convenient and comfortable, the 7.1 surround sound didn't really improve my K/D. If I really wanted to, I could pinpoint enemy players' position either on my Aego M, provided the satellite units are placed properly. I can also do that with any of my headphones, but for long gaming sessions, I do prefer speakers simply for the fact that they don’t rest on my head.

    33766984_2063712193680271_8445518421205975040_n.jpg
    This binaural combo is great for gaming. But the cost....

    Some games do have surround virtualization. However, that still cannot make the Play a truly gaming-first product. At its heart, the Play is a quality audiophile product – the added microphone jack and the form factor are only bonus for those headphones lovers that also play games. I count myself among those: with the Play driving my Aego M and my Q701, I got so caught up in Battlefield’s excellent soundtrack that I felt bad when the match actually started.

    Even the Play's design to fit into a gaming case would not be suitable for all users. After around 30 mins of use the Play "feels" around 40*C/104*F (which is around the degree I warm my baby's milk to). This is actually not bad for a Class-A headphone amp per se, but in a gaming case with all the excessive heat generated by the GPU and CPU it's going to be much higher. Thus I will always recommend using the Play as a standalone unit, with audiophile headphones.

    The affordable Burson doesn't dissapoint

    A few months ago, I did write a small article comparing various amp/DAC around the $500 price range. If you want the most intimate (but NOT congested) listening experience, the Burson Play with V6 Vivid op-amps would serve you better than all those DAC/amps mentioned. If you want something a bit more elegant, V6 Vivid duals with V6 Classic singles is the way to go.

    33766937_2063661983685292_9099804668107685888_n.jpg
    Opamp rolling = unprecedented flexibility.

    If budget is a concern, the stock version will not disappoint, especially at the $300 asking price for a powerful amp/DAC unit like the Play. As others in the Play thread have pointed out, there are many cheap op-amps to roll (I quite like how $15 spent on 8920 and OP27 could turn a Play into a "reference" unit). Of all versions, I do believe it's the V5 version that will bring the famed "Burson signature sound" to you at a fraction of what the Conductor or the HP-160D costs. We're talking about a lot of possibilities via op-amp rolling, and I'm sure that no version of the most affordable Burson will disappoint.

    I view this as Burson's natural progression. Years ago, when I could only dream of the HD650, Burson started as a high-end amp maker that won awards left and right. At the moment, when the HD650 is no longer out of reach and we headphones lovers have a plethora of choices at the $200 range, Burson has introduced a $300 DAC-amp that you can easily tune to your liking. Yes, it might not have the surround virtualization that you might need, but the Play is a bona-fide audiophile DAC-amp that your music deserves.
      raoultrifan, Eiffel and Fearless1 like this.
  6. Cinder
    Good Headphone Amp, Great Pre-Amp
    Written by Cinder
    Published May 20, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great resolving sound, premium construction and materials, great accessory set, fits in a 5.25' storage bay, good amplification range, great DAC, format compatibility, versatile tuning options
    Cons - Power button is inconvenient to reach, no optical in
    [​IMG]
    Burson Play Review: Good Headphone Amp, Great Pre-Amp

    Burson builds audiophile-grade DACs and amps. Based in Australia, they use their technical expertise to build high-grade amplification and source devices nearly entirely out of discrete components, a trait that Burson says improves the performance of their products. They’ve recently released a DAC/Amp called the Play: a device that can be used as a part of your audio stack or even slotted into a 5.25in bay in a PC!

    You can find the Play for sale here, ranging from $300 to $550 depending on the configuration you order. The cheapest option comes with a basic opamp set and no remote, while the most expensive one comes with two sets of Burson’s premium opamps and a remote.

    About My Preferences: Heads up, I’m a person! As such, these words are my opinion, and they are tinged by my personal preferences. While I try to mitigate this as much as possible during my review process, I’d be lying if I said my biases are completely erased. So for you, my readers, keep this in mind:

    • My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass.
    • I have a mild treble sensitivity.
    Audio Stack
    • Motherboard -> USB -> Burson Play -> Sherwood AD230B -> JBL 990X
    • Motherboard -> USB -> Headphones
    All testing was done using the Classic opamps.

    Tech Specs
    • Input impedance: 35 KOhms
    • Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0–35Khz
    • THD:<0.02%
    • Output impedance (Head Amp): 8 Ohm
    • Power Supply: 100–240V AC
    • Output impedance (Pre Out): 35 Ohm
    • DAC: SABRE32/ESS9018
    • Channel Separation: 132 dB @ 1KHz, 122 dB @ 20KHz
    • THD+N: 0.0015% @ 1KHz, 0dBFS
    • Native DSD: 64 / 128 / 256
    • DSD over PCM: DoP64 / DoP128 / DoP256
    Sound Signature
    Performance and Pairing

    The Play has a very subtle warmth to it but is otherwise completely transparent. It is incredibly resolving and lets you get the most out of your lossless file formats if that’s your thing. The amplification range of this thing is great, and it pairs much better with my AD230b than my HiFiME 9018 or my PC’s line-out. Gone is the anemic, thin, sound of old. In its stead is a much more balanced and fully weighted tone that’s much improved the quality of my sound system’s stack.

    The Play also handles IEMs fairly well. Very sensitive ones will have an audible noise floor, but the majority of IEMs that I tested had a negligible noise floor if one at all.

    Using it with more demanding headphones like planars suited the Play much better, and it really sang. No noticeable noise floor hear either.

    Packaging / Unboxing
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Build
    Construction Quality

    The Play’s build is top notch. Every inch of it is finely machined and free from flaws. It is assembled with careful hands, as each removable component came tightly and securely fixed to the chassis.

    [​IMG]
    The volume knob is milled from metal and has a very tasteful metallic ring around the front. It’s free-rotating, so there’s no limit to the degree to which you can twist it. It has a satisfying bump for each adjustment of the knob and is satisfying to crank up. Pressing it in mutes the device.

    [​IMG]
    Besides the volume knob is an analog volume display that lights up in blue to show you what your current volume level is. Further besides that is the 1/4in jack out and the microphone-in.

    [​IMG]
    On the rear is the line in, power adapter socket (for if the Play is being used discretely), a Molex power socket (for if it's being used in a PC case), the power switch, and the RCA out.

    Speaking of being used in a PC case, the Play has grooves milled into its chassis that make it easy to install into a PC case with an empty 5.25in bay. Having a DAC/Amp in the front of my PC was super handy for the week I tested it there, especially while gaming. Connecting and disconnecting different headphones and mics (some are better than other for online shooters) was a breeze, at least when compared to having to reach being my PC and yank the cables out from my motherboard.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Depending on your model, the Play will come with a remote. It features a volume up, volume down, and mute button. Each is milled from a reflective metal and feels incredibly premium to the touch. Its weight gives it a near-perfect heft. The remote works really well and has a good range. There’s no point in my (admittedly small) room where it can’t reach the Play unit.

    And good news for opamp junkies: the Play makes it easy to swap in your own opamps. Just remove the top half of the case and bam, you have access to the fully-discrete internals of the Play. All you need is the included hex-wrench and a couple minutes. Its so easy, even an idiot can do it! I’m living proof, after all.

    Accessories
    There’s a lot to unpack in the Play’s box! So in my unit, which is the “ Play with V6 Classic”, you’ll find:

    • 1x set of V6 Classic opamps
    • 1x set of V6 Vivid opamps
    • 1x set of RCA interconnect cables
    • 1x USB cable
    • 1x power brick
    • 1x Molex power adapter
    • 1x motherboard header adapter
    • 1x remote
    • 1x set of rubber adhesive feet
    • 1x 1/4in adapter
    • 1x RCA passthrough slider
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The utility cables are pretty par for the course, exempting the RCA cables. Those are premium Burson stock. The cable is thick, but pliable, and has high-quality and aesthetically pleasing terminations.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    This accessory set is comprehensive. It gets the job done and does so with style (where applicable). Its almost a shame to have all this nice-looking hardware tucked away inside a PC case! But if you’re like me and have a need to show off your cool things, then just take it out and plug it into a wall outlet: it’ll work all the same!

    Summary
    The Play is a DAC/Amp with an innovative take on form-factor. Allowing users to install it into a PC case or use it discretely, the play reflects a flexibility not often found in audiophile hardware. Good format compatibility, strong amping, relatively low noise floors, a highly resolving presentation, and the ability to freely mix opamps in an out represents an unprecedented level of tinker-ability for those with restless hands, at least if you’ve got the cash. So if you’re in the market for a competent DAC/Amp and have a knack for swapping opamps, the Play is for you.

    As always, happy listening!
    1. Dobrescu George
      Really liking those photos :)
      Dobrescu George, Aug 1, 2018
      Cinder likes this.
    2. Cinder
      Cinder, Aug 1, 2018
      Dobrescu George likes this.
  7. cskippy
    Burson Play - Mid-Fi Excellence
    Written by cskippy
    Published Aug 31, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Small footprint, excellent sound
    Price to performance ratio is hard to beat
    Can power most headphones easily
    Cons - Can run warm, might be an issue inside a computer case
    Limited I/O, only has USB input and single ended preamp outputs
    Some noise with very sensitive headphones/IEMs
    Burson Play
    https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/play/

    The Burson Play is quite the competent product! It only has one input, USB, and preamp outputs that can be used with a power amp or active monitors.
    It's meant to be an AIO device that can be placed in a computer bay drive to integrate with your desktop in a sleek and minimalistic way. It can also be used as a standalone AIO solution.
    Power is provided by an included power brick or SATA cable connection to your computer PSU. There is also a mic input on the front for a microphone for chat and online gaming. I did not try this feature.

    One of the features of the Burson amps is Opamp rolling. I'm not sure which Opamps are in this particular model but assume they are the NE5532 X 3, NE5543 X 2 from the PLAY Basic option. I will try and find out.

    Yup, my unit is basic option:
    [​IMG]

    So, how does it sound? In a word, correct. It doesn't do anything to draw you in or have a crazy 3D sound stage, tube bloom or enhanced attack or extended decay. It just sounds correct.
    It's funny, because I'm going back and forth between my main headphone rig and the PLAY and it's very enjoyable.

    [​IMG]

    Singxer SU-1>Yggy Analog 2/Holo Spring L1>EC Aficionado/ECP DSHA-1>PMx2, Utopia, Elex, HD650, HE-500
    vs
    Burson PLAY>headphones

    Listening was done at ~75dB with each headphone. I'll provide volume level used for each headphone.
    (A note, as I saw some people saying they used vastly higher volume numbers, I do have Windows xCORE USB Audio 2.0 at 100%)

    With PMx2, the sound is very clean. Bass is extended, without bloom or added mid bass. Midrange is present and voices and instruments are placed appropriately in the mix.
    The highs are well integrated and sound clear but never harsh or brittle. Imaging is very good, layering is lacking compared to Multibit DACs but is more comparable to RME ADI-2 DAC. Volume at 5.

    Paired with Utopia, you get a very reference sound. Sound stage with Utopia collapses a bit but you are left with not a window but a clear opening that lets you hear the music.
    It's staggeringly clear and uncolored. Bass might be a little light for some with this pairing but it is well extended and fast.
    Utopia can tend to have a forward sound and the PLAY does a good job of controlling this so music doesn't become fatiguing.
    I did note some very slight noise with Utopia but it is one of the most sensitive headphones out there so this shouldn't be an issue. Volume at 5.

    Elex didn't fair as well with PLAY. It's certainly not a bad pairing, but it didn't have that music engagement that Utopia and PMx2 were capable of with PLAY.
    Treble was the biggest issue, being slightly unrefined with a couple hot spots at 6, 9 and 12kHz (These harmonic frequencies are present in Elex, Clear and Utopia to varying degrees.).
    The overall sound was listenable but you might opt for warmer op amps than the ones I had in my PLAY. Volume at 6.

    HD650M, like Elex was just passable on PLAY. It presented the music in a more mid focused/forward manner, which meant both bass and high frequencies were lacking a touch.
    The sound stage was clear and well presented, a nice theme is seems. My HD650 is modded, thus the “M” designation, with custom rear damping and coin mod to remove the foam in front of the drivers.
    This makes them have a little less bass than stock as well as a brighter/slightly more forward sound. I think a stock HD650/HD6XX would pair well with PLAY. Volume at 8.

    Listening with HE-500, I start noticing a trend. There's that mid focus again. Bass and treble take a back seat. I wonder if this is a current limiting issue?
    Compared to the DSHA-1 and Aficionado, power supply size is severely lacking. This isn't a fault or criticism of PLAY, it's just a fact.
    Due to the size and features Burson wanted to incorporate in PLAY, compromises had to be made. Volume at 8.

    I briefly tried using the PLAY as a preamp >Vidar>speakers. As soon as I turned it on, there was noise from the USB, a hash and digital sound that is the pest of digital audio.
    I have heard very few systems that didn't have some level of noise, and only a few DACs and DDC converters have true isolated inputs.

    I was worried when I read that Burson chose the SABRE32/ESS9018 DAC chip as previous implementations I've heard have been bright and unmusical.
    Burson has done an excellent job of tuning the PLAY around the SABRE chip. I'm sure the pure Class A topology has a lot to do with that. The Xmos USB drivers are rock solid for me.
    No stuttering or drop outs even when streaming music and playing games. Unfortunately, I can't isolate the DAC from the amp, so no impressions of how the amp performs with my other DACs.
    It would be fun to try some of Burson's other dedicated amps to hear that Class A sound in all of it's glory.

    For the price, the Burson PLAY is hard to beat. An AIO system that can integrate into your computer, with a preamp output, and accept mic input all while having clear and fatigue free sound, that's quite the feat for $300.
      trellus and C-Bass like this.
  8. DarKu
    Burson Play – The Playful One
    Written by DarKu
    Published Jul 30, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great kick, impact and speed on all tunes
    - Natural sound with a great flow
    - Quite linear with no dips or rises across all frequency response
    - Very potent and powerful headphone amp section
    - Spread soundstage and quite deep as well
    - Quality construction, 3 in 1 device, versatile and easy to use
    - Best price to performance ratio I have ever tested in a DAC/Amp
    Cons - High output impedance is not that great with IEMs and other low impedance headphones
    - Slight hum in very sensitive earphones
    You know what? I have a soft spot for Burson Audio gear. And that’s because 7 years ago I was publishing my absolutely first review on www.soundnews.ro and that review was for my own Burson HA-160D. I loved that thing very much, it actually kickstarted my career as a reviewer.

    Later on I tested and written about their future designs like HA-160DS, Soloist, Timekeeper, about their powerful op-amp testing station Lycan and of course about Conductor. The later one I again purchased and used for the following years and it was my go to audiophile headphone testing machine just before moving into the balanced land with a separate balanced source and amplifier.

    [​IMG]

    My life was easier that time, much easier. I had my 160D and later my Conductor, two pairs of headphones and that was it. Sound was great; life was moving on, no worries about quality RCA cables or other quibbles.

    Fortunately Burson Audio was not sleeping all these years and released a plethora of new devices and I really do love their kind of back to the roots vibe, especially their new Burson Play is exactly that: a simple DAC and headphone amp combo. Besides the Play, Fun and Bang were also released; Fun is a dedicated headphone amplifier and Bang is an integrated speaker amplifier. Hopefully I’ll do reviews at least for two of those devices.

    For now my review is concentrated around the Play, which I was immensely enjoying for the last 3 weeks or so.

    It not only brings back good memories about inception of my career but I actually started to remember the Burson sound signature, if you are wondering if this type of thing really exists in the Burson family.

    As it’s name suggests Play have a very joyful and mood lifting sound signature designed not only for audiophiles but this time for gamers as well.

    Truth to be told I game myself too when time permits, I’m a Blizzard fan so I play mostly their Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch games.

    I will test the Play both as an audiophile hub powering my hungry planar magnetics and as a gaming audio source powering the same headphones.

    [​IMG]

    Under the hood

    So what do we have here is a very good build DAC and headphone amp combo plus a dedicated preamp for a power amp.

    Please do not be fooled by its small-ish footprint. Actually its shape and design was made around the 5.25” PC drive bays, so Burson Play can be integrated in any tower gaming PC or in regular small, mid tower or full tower cases that have at least one 5.25” drive bay. In this case it can be powered by a single molex 4 pin cable that goes directly from your PC power supply and you really should not worry about the quality of your power supply because Burson already thought about that in advance and integrated a voltage regulator inside so that your PC’s power supply will have a minimal impact on sound quality.

    Play can also be used as an external device as I was planning to do, being powered by a simple SMPS external power supply.

    Under the hood the DAC chip used is the veteran ESS 9018 capable of decoding PCM material up to 32 bit / 386 kHz and DSD material up to DSD256 (DSD x4).

    The USB receiver is a quality XMOS one, gone are the days when I was losing USB connection due to poor USB implementations and drivers. XMOS is much easier to implement and sounds pretty good too, way to go Burson.

    [​IMG]

    Of course the stars of the show are the Burson developed ICs always working in the magical class A circuitry powering the headphone amplifier that are fed by three sets of revolutionary Max Current Power Supplies (MCPS) developed by Burson, the Play is really one of the most powerful headphone amplifiers in the world.

    And I can attest that, if it can power a set of Audeze LCD-4 and it did, then it can power any headphone in the world.

    Play as again its name suggests is an op-amp rollers dream as you can literally play with a ton of different op-amps and tune it to your liking.

    The Play is being sold in 4 variants: the basic one that uses NE5532 op-amps, the one that uses Burson branded V5i op-amps, the one that uses much more advanced discrete op-amps such as V6 Classic or V6 Vivid. The latter two are also offered with a heavy-duty remote control.

    I have the basic, skinny, Eastern-Europe friendly Play but please don’t worry, in it’s stock form it already impressed me enough.

    [​IMG]

    Play with me

    Lets get to the most interest part shall we.

    First and foremost I was a bit in awe that it can properly drive with authority with lots of headroom to spare a pair of Audeze LCD-4 and believe me that is not an easy task.

    At around 70-80 volume I can play even jazz and classical pieces with ease, past that and it becomes painful to listen. It surely has enough drive and power reserve for a vast majority of headphones.

    I have the latest revision (Rev 2.2) that also works great with IEMs. First revision had few problems with noise and clean background but I can safely say those issues are gone and it works as intended.

    My FiiO FH5 hybrid IEMs have a faint, low-pitched hum but only in complete silence, after I press play I cannot hear it anymore. In absolute terms there is a very slight hum but it is not something that should bother an ordinary listener.

    Powering the FH5 volume sits between 7 and 12, more than that and it’s painful, again it has a lot of power reserve.

    Output impedance is a bit high at 8 Ohms so low and ultra-low impedance headphones will have a looser sound with a weaker control over the drivers.

    Other headphones that were tested were Audeze LCD-4Z (the low impedance ones) and Sennheiser HD660S, both performed good with flying colors under all circumstances.

    [​IMG]

    Besides the power output that impressed me, this whole thing as a DAC/Amp works surprisingly well, the sound overall is clean and clear with a wide soundstage, with a great depth and great control over the headphone drivers. I almost forgot how good a small DAC/Amp can sound.

    The Burson sound signature is certainly here because not a single hint of shrillness or brightness can be heard. I know there is an ESS Sabre inside it and still it sounds natural, easy on the ear with a good flow and a rich tone to it.

    And I am testing the basic version here; I’m already imagining how good the full-fledged V6 Vivid/Classic should sound then.

    What also made me happy is the revealing nature and easiness of every song heard on Play. I enjoyed all music genres with no apparent weaknesses whatsoever.

    Adam Agee & Jon Sousa – Paddy Fahey’s sounded incredibly natural, very enjoying, every little nuance in the song, like the soft toe tapping that moved so little air was easily heard, the mix of violin and guitar never seemed crowded or muddy. The midrange really shined on this song and I believe the strength of the Play is exactly in the midrange section where it shows lots of textures and meat to the bone.

    Lara Ruggels – Snowflake showed lots of depth around all the notes, an evenly spread soundstage and a natural tone to it.

    I believe Play have a quite good tonal balance showing not only a meaty and full of substance sound but also subtleties and micro-details hidden in the mix.

    The voices and guitars again sounded astonishingly good and there is truly nothing to reproach on this song.

    [​IMG]

    Moving on to something much more energetic like Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane showed me the real strength of the Play and that is a strong impact into my eardrums and great speed and kick that it is capable of. It never stays out of tempo; it keeps up even with such a fast and crowded track.

    Pair the Play with a nice pair of planar magnetic headphones and a headbanging becomes inevitable on electronica.

    Layers and sub-layers of bass hit me, what’s why I believe the pace, rhythm and timing are on a high level on the Play.

    Although Burson designed the Play mainly for gamers, believe me with music it works really well, better than I anticipated.

    Moving on to W.A. Mozart – Serenade No.13 in G Major (Allegro) – showed a wide spread soundstage that I can walk by easily with my imagination, depth was also good, I was easily appreciating the distance between the orchestra and me. Trebles were crisp and biting without bothering me too much, so no harshness whatsoever could be found on all test tracks I tried it with.

    Launching Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch and activating the “headphone mode” made me appreciate my games even more because of great localization of my friends and more importantly of my foes. I’m actually lowering volume setting in those games because Play hits really hard on every shot or special effect and it distracts me too much with its strong kick into eardrums.

    [​IMG]



    Comparison with my Gilmore Lite Mk2

    Burson Play Basic costs 300 USD and the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2 goes for 500 USD, also the Gilmore Lite is only a headphone amplifier without a DAC section, so its not a very fair comparison however its an enlightening one showing the true capabilities and nature of the Play.

    Both have the same footprint and both are working in Class A circuitry for the best possible sound quality.

    Burson Play has a LOT more power, at 70% volume it powers my LCD-4 and that is astonishing, Gilmore Lite goes out of power with LCD-4 and starts clipping and heavily distorting. However when powering very sensitive earphones like my FH5 hybrids, Gilmore Lite is much better having no hiss at all and also presents a better control over the drivers.

    For dynamic headphones, Burson will have a stronger kick and a somewhat more natural sound making every track easy to listen with no listening fatigue. Gilmore Lite however is like a magnifying glass showing every good or bad in a recording, it sounds also more linear and kind of boring sometimes and a bit fatiguing due to its very revealing nature.

    So in the end it’s a draw, depending on your tastes or mood one is better than another; I like both for what they are. Strictly in terms of SQ, Gilmore Lite is more technical but weaker, Play is more musical and much more powerful. Pick your poison my friends.

    [​IMG]

    Conclusion

    To say what I was mighty impressed by the Burson Play would be a great understatement because it showed me that great sounding gear should not cost a fortune and many times it made the rethink my strategy regarding audio gear in general, because of the aberrant prices most of the gear is selling for.

    For a simple desktop DAC/Headphone amp used to play music, recording or gaming Burson Play gains my highest recommendation to this date. It is that good and some more.

    PROS:
    • Great kick, impact and speed on all tunes
    • Natural sound with a great flow
    • Quite linear with no dips or rises across all frequency response
    • Very potent and powerful headphone amp section
    • Spread soundstage and quite deep as well
    • Quality construction, 3 in 1 device, versatile and easy to use
    • Best price to performance ratio I have ever tested in a DAC/Amp
    CONS:
    • High output impedance is not that great with IEMs and other low impedance headphones
    • Slight hum in very sensitive earphones
    Equipment used for review purposes:
    • Headphones: Audeze LCD-4, LCD-4Z, Sennheiser HD660S, Momentum 2, FiiO FH5
    • DAC: Matrix X-Sabre Pro with X-SPDIF 2, Burson Play
    • Headphone Amplifiers: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2, Burson Play
    • Speakers: Audio Physic Tempo Plus
    • Integrated Amps: Hegel H190, Cambridge Audio Azur 851A
    [​IMG]
      snellemin and raoultrifan like this.
  9. snellemin
    Hifi-Basshead approved!
    Written by snellemin
    Published Jul 17, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - One of the best desktops amps available today.
    Cons - No analog input
    I received this unit for evaluation purposes and to post my opinion on this forum and such.

    20180612_093111.jpg

    From day one the Burson Play sounded great from the get go. After 24 Hours it sounded it even better and finally settled after a few more days. Funny how that works at times.

    The unit gets pretty warm, but that is to be expected for it being a class A unit. Even the volume knob gets a bit warm after a while. I can see that you will need a well ventilated PC chassis, when using this amp inside a PC.

    Build quality is pretty good. Fitment issues here and there are minor, which is ok for the price range. But at the higher price range with the other opamps being offered, I would expect better QA. This is me being picky and having high expectations in my work environment.
    20180611_223843.jpg 20180611_223813_HDR.jpg

    I don’t hear any of Sabre “Glare” that I have heard before with other units using the same DAC. Sound is well rounded and I don’t feel an opamp upgrade is really necessary to enjoy this amp unit. Subbass is bottomless and controlled. Midbass is tight. Midrange is clean and the high-end is proper to my ears. I don’t hear 17 kHz and up as well anymore, so in my regular audio setup that range is a bit boosted to compensate for my natural roll off in the higher frequencies. But as far as I can tell, the topend sounds really really good. This amp is HiFi-Basshead approved!

    Compared to my Parasound desktop setup, I feel the “Play” can hang with the best of them out there on the market. Even with the so called high-end home units, when it comes to the Dac department. 20180612_093106.jpg 20180612_091453_HDR.jpg 20180612_091611.jpg 20180612_091641.jpg




    The sound is basically perfect using my favorite JVC SZ-2000. Power to spare and zero lack of dynamics. Streaming Funx radio stations, the sound coming from the Play is impressive. Totally different from my older Dac/amps. My volume is set around 16 out of 99, unless I go a bit crazy with the subbass and then the volume goes up. Playing DSD and Flacs the sound gets more impressive. Quite astonishing what Burson has done within this small platform and price range.

    The sound with the installed NE5543 and NE5532 has the Burson sound signature already. Upgrading opamps after that is pushing out the absolute best out of the amp. And that is where you enter the HiFi audiophile level and the money pit starts to get deeper.

    The output coming out of the RCA connection provided in the back are not fixed, but variable. So you could hook up the Play to an external amplifier or the Burson Bang.

    The motherboard has a well thought out clean layout.
    20180626_100605.jpg 20180626_100801.jpg 20180626_100821_HDR.jpg 20180626_100834.jpg 20180626_101045.jpg

    Preference:

    I really like the sound signature of the FIIO Q5 AK dacs over the Sabre, but by a very small margin. I mean if the Play offered changeable Dac filters, it would have been perfect in that aspect.

    Instead of changing filter settings on the Dac itself, Opamps rolling is offered for changing the sound signature to your liking.

    It’s like me upgrading my Dac chip inside my Ibasso D7 to Wolfson 8741. The sound improved over a big margin and I am perfectly happy with it. It’s still in my rig and gets used quite often. But the newer stuff sound even more analog vs the 8741. It comes down to sound signature preference now. There is no better Dac per se. This is good news for us.



    Wishes:

    That the Play did offer an RCA input like the Burson Fun unit. But this Play is geared towards PC users and not really desktop usage.

    That the remote be included even for the basic unit and not use for the ones with the opamps upgrade already installed.


    Other user’s comments;

    User #1

    The Burson Play has more impact and is more forward sounding. Sounds really good with Rock music. Very enjoyable to listen too. He can only imagine what an opamps upgrade would do to the sound. Says it sounds as enjoyable as his Sony PHA-3


    User #2

    Sounds so natural as opposed to the “digital” sound that he is used too.


    User #3

    Very interesting sound. None fatiguing and smooth. Not crazy about the looks of the chassis. Would’ve liked a nicer looking power supply, instead of the supplied power brick.


    User #4

    Loves the sound and is impressed with the “guts” of the unit. Interesting power stage and board layout. He would’ve liked a “balanced” output as another feature.

    20180612_091746.jpg 20180612_092108.jpg
      Dobrescu George and sunneebear like this.
    1. Dobrescu George
      Very nice review!
      Dobrescu George, Aug 1, 2018
  10. Admiralcreamy
    Fantastic DAC for PC Gamers
    Written by Admiralcreamy
    Published Mar 16, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Convenient
    Excellent Sound
    Great Value
    Highly Customizable
    Cons - Too-Bright Volume Indicator
    Introduction

    There are already some great, incredibly detailed reviews of the Play on here, so I’ll try to provide a different prospective. I’m a newbie to premium audio, and the Burson Play was the first high-end non-mobile DAC I’ve listened to. I currently own a Yulong U100 and have previously experienced the Chord Mojo. I paired the Play with my HD580s and Bose QC35s.


    Features

    What really interested me about the Play was the ability to finally make some use one of those 5.25” drives on the front of my computer. The unit can be inserted into any standard bay and is powered via Molex. There are additional adapters you can purchase to route the RCA jacks to the back of your PC using a single PCI slot.

    I used the Play both with the included power supply and through my PC’s power supply (Cooler Master RS850). I did not notice any difference in audio quality or volume between the two.

    One of my favourite features of my Yulong U100 is the convenience of having one unit as a DAC, AMP, and source for my desktop speakers (Paradigm Micro V3). The Play is a direct upgrade to every one of these aspects.

    The chassis is plain, but still attractive. The volume knob clicks nicely and everything about it speaks quality. There are a couple minor annoyances, however. The volume indication doubles as an on light and is a little bright for my taste; you’d have to turn the Play off every night if your PC is in your bedroom. The Play also got significantly hotter than my Yulong U100, but this isn’t much of an issue for a desk unit.


    Gaming

    The Play is marketed as a gaming peripheral, so I though I’d cover that first. All gaming tests were done with my HD580s.

    Battlefield 1

    An incredibly immersive experience. The Play brought isolation, soundstage, and agility to DICE’s legendary audio. I was able to comfortably hear everything I needed to without blowing my eardrums. Gunshots has satisfying punch and explosions were exciting without being overpowering. Compared to the U100, the Play provided a significant extra layer of detail and clarity.

    Forza Motorsport 7

    Audio is incredibly important to me in a racing game, and the Play did not disappoint. Engine growls, tire squeals, and the wind rushing passing me were all delivered beautifully. Again, the addition detail led to a deeply immersive experience; a cut above the average U100.

    Wolfenstein II

    Kneecapping Nazis has never sounded so sweet. The Play lent its power in the low end to push my HD580s beyond what I thought they were capable of. Gunshots were meaty and the soundstage was expanded to add realism and immersion. Sneaking was genuinely easier compared to the U100 as I was able to hear every little rustle and whisper.


    Music

    After experiencing what the Play could deliver with gaming, I was very exited to try out my favourite songs. For these tests I used my HD580s as well as my QC35s. I’ll be comparing the Burson to my Yulong U100 and the Chord Mojo.

    Touch by Daft Punk Ft. Paul Williams

    The Play’s outstanding detail was evident with the orchestral sections and general atmospheric quality of this incredible track. Sound was mostly level, with a (very welcome) more pronounced low-end on the 580s compared to the U100 and Mojo. The Play was superior to the U100 in every aspect, as expected. The Mojo, however, won me over with its warm, exciting mid-range, which was more detailed and pronounced than the Play. Even when paired with the more mobile-focused QC35s, the Play delivered quality, managing to expand the soundstage of these closed-back headphones.

    Sunflower Seeds by Bryce Vine

    Once again, the extended low-end on the Play was a boon to somewhat lacking 580s. The unique, mellow beat was smooth and crisp, with Play easily outpacing the U100s lackluster low-end and detail. The Mojo fell behind on this track as I felt the Play provided a more open soundstage and sweet low-end. The Play’s slightly emphasized lows did not feel overpowering at all on my QC35s, which sounded much closer to what their price tag should suggest.

    Under the Water by Aurora

    This track hits with an unexpected, dominant drop, and the Play performed beautifully. The drums were punchy and exiting. Aurora’s vocals were detailed and magical. The Play was a cut above the U100 here, although the Mojo provided more clarity.


    Conclusion/TL;DR

    The Play really seems like a no-brainer for PC Gaming enthusiast with a little cash to spare. Its ability to hide in your PC saves valuable desk space and the customizability really speaks to the target audience. The Play doesn’t skimp on audio quality either, with incredible detail and an extended low-end sure to please. I’d heartily recommend this to anyone thinking of getting into the audiophile world or just looking for an upgrade to an entry-level DAC.
      snellemin and raoultrifan like this.
    1. llamaluv
      Which version of the Play are you using?
      llamaluv, Mar 30, 2018
      selvakumar likes this.
    2. newdoughboy
      He was using 2 vivid dual and singles and 1 classic dual in the i/v stage :wink:
      newdoughboy, Apr 18, 2018