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Burson Audio Play

  1. ostewart
    Powerful and fun DAC/Amp
    Written by ostewart
    Published Oct 18, 2017
    Pros - Op-Amp rolling, versatility, power and overall sound quality
    Cons - no analogue or optical inputs
    Firstly I would like to thank Burson Audio for selecting me as the first member of the UK tour, I made sure to give the unit plenty of hours of play before the final review.

    *disclaimer: This sample was provided on loan for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.

    Gear Used: HP Laptop > Curious USB cable > Play (V6 Vivid and Classic op-amps) > German Maestro GMP400 / Ultrasone Edition 8 EX and others...


    Tech specs:
    Extensive info can be found on the product page: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/play/

    Play Basic - NE5532 X 3, NE5543 X 2 - $299

    Play with V5i - V5i-Dual X 3, V5i-Single X 2 - $399*

    Play with V5 - V5-Dual X 3, V5-Single X 2 - $475*

    Play with V6 Vivid - V6-Vivid-Dual X 3, V6-Vivid-Single X 2 - $549*

    Play with V6 Classic - V6-Classic-Dual X 3, V6-Classic-Single X 2 - $549*

    *All models above the Basic come with the remote. Prices include shipping and are in USD.

    Build quality and Accessories:
    As this is part of a tour, it did not come in retail packaging I don’t think, as it came in a clear plastic box. The unit itself is quite industrial looking, with an all black chassis that feels hefty and solid. On the front you have the volume knob, LED volume numbers, 6.3mm headphone output and also a 3.5mm microphone input. On the back you have the regular power input, a power input for jumpers from a PC PSU if you want to mount it in your PC, RCA outputs and a USB input. Everything is extremely well finished and put together with tight sockets and minimal play.

    Accessory wise you get a USB cable, remote control and RCA cables. This is a tour unit so additional V6 Classic op-amps are included, the V6 Vivid are pre-installed in this unit. With the retail version you get a panel for the back of your PC with RCA jumpers so you can still use the pre-amp output whilst mounted in a PC.



    This Amp/DAC is aimed at those who want the best sound out of their PC, hence why Burson made it the size it is, so you can mount it in a PC case. It also has a dedicated microphone input, which is again aimed at gamers, and provides a high quality microphone input.

    I will be using the Play as a regular Amp/DAC with headphones for music playback. Now the Play is a full class A amp (runs warm) with built in DAC, it has no analogue inputs to allow you to only use the amp section. It also only has USB input, which is a shame as an optical port would have made it even better.

    Now this Amp/DAC can output a lot of power, so should be able to drive most headphones out there with ease. It also has RCA outputs so you can use it as a DAC/Pre-amp, the RCA volume is changed with the knob and is not a fixed line-out.


    You get a remote control which allows you to control volume along with muting the device; you can also mute it by pressing the volume knob in. The volume control is digital and has 99 steps, the gain is fairly high, as is the output impedance (8 Ohms) so it is really made for full-size headphones and not sensitive IEM’s.

    One major feature of the Play is the ability to roll op-amps with ease; the unit comes with a hex key to open it up and allows you easy access to change the op-amps. Also the circuit is designed to get the most out of Bursons own series of op-amps.


    V6 Vivid:

    The Burson play leans more to the fun side of sound with the Vivid op-amps, not being a purely reference amp. It has plenty of power and punch yet also finesse; the finer details are not smeared or hidden. It is a dynamic and punchy sounding amp, allowing you to hear excellent detail without sounding overly harsh. Separation is excellent and the soundstage is very enveloping allowing you to easily pinpoint instruments within the soundstage.

    There is never any sense that you are missing out on anything in the recording, there is plenty of air around instruments without sounding detached. With the V6 Vivid the sound is transparent but not strictly flat and neutral, it doesn’t want to be either. It wants you to enjoy the music without trying to analyse it.

    As I said with the V6 Vivid it is a more dynamic and punchy sound, more direct and fun adding a little bottom end presence which works wonders with my GMP400’s.


    V6 Classic:
    With the V6 Classic vocals are upfront and intimate, you get a bit more of an intimate sound with a bit less air but you get a little extra smoothness. Again the details are there, but not as up front and exciting as the Vivid, the sound is a little more laid back but intimate. The bass is smoother and has less visceral punch, instead stays more in line with the recording. Vocals are the focus here.

    I find the V6 Classic to sound more linear and balanced but with a little added smoothness, the soundstage is still wide but instruments have a softer edge to them, the highs are not as exciting but still extend effortlessly.

    I find the V6 Classic to be less exciting but more towards my preferred sound, it has a very detailed and well balanced sound with a hint of smoothness, they work well with all genres and sound excellent.

    Microphone input: The input works really well and is excellent quality, no issues here and an excellent feature for gamers: https://vocaroo.com/i/s0pisjvHvJpL


    Well what can I say; it does what it says on the tin but with added functionality that other DAC/Amps do not offer for this price. The amp section is extremely powerful and can be tuned with different op-amps and offers an excellent platform for people looking to test various op-amp configurations. It has a microphone input on the front for gamers, and can be neatly mounted in a PC tower.

    With the V6 Vivid op-amps you get a very dynamic and crisp sound that is extremely fun to listen to, with the V6 Classic op-amps you get a more neutral sound but still with a hint of smoothness and intimacy that is more in line with my personal preferences.

    The Burson play really is an excellent DAC/Amp, that is versatile and works really well with most full-size headphones. For the price it is a highly recommended product for those looking for a desktop DAC/Amp. I personally would have liked to have seen optical and analogue inputs, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

    Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (no analogue or optical inputs)
      raoultrifan and selvakumar like this.
  2. icsterm
    Burson Play review
    Written by icsterm
    Published Sep 3, 2018
    Pros - Fast, clear and articulate Sound

    Spread out and out of your head experience

    Tons of power, watch your volume settings

    Great build quality and simple industrial design
    Cons - Would like a line-in as well to use it as a separate headphone amp
    I borrowed a Burson Play from one of my friends and was quite impressed by it that I decided to do a dedicated review for it.

    First of all this is my first contact with Burson Audio gear, I never listened to any of their upper class stuff but this little fella is looking really good.

    I’m coming from smaller DAC/Amps made by FiiO so for me Play seems in completely another league.


    I really like its very simple look and design, its almost industrial looking.

    I also like that it is a whole package as a DAC and a headphone amp, you just plug your headphones are you are done, you need nothing more.

    Looking at specs I really was impressed by the power ratings and finally this is my first time listening to an ESS Sabre DAC chip.

    I am using it for about 2 weeks now with my laptop running Tidal Hi-Fi, driving a pair of Sennheiser HD660S.


    Now lets cut to the chase shall we?

    Well, so far I listened to my HD660S only from lower tier DAC/Amps so this is really my first contact with a higher quality stuff and the difference is quite big.

    I know HD660S is not top of the line, but nor the Burson Play is that.

    However there is a really big difference between my FiiO E10K and Burson Play.

    Everything sound clearer, I hear more nuances in my favorite songs.

    Like little new notes that I never thought were there I am hearing them for the first time.


    Besides that there is A LOT MORE power on tap compared to my small E10K.

    I mean there is no contest; Play just smashed the E10K on every aspect.

    If on E10K I am going almost full volume to hear better dynamics and impact, on Burson Play I cannot go higher than 30 out of 99! It is very powerful indeed.

    Rock music sound punchier and somehow faster, its like I upgraded my HD660S to some Audeze planars or something like that. Listening to electronica is also enlightening, a really amazing experience.


    Overall Burson Play has this kind of bold and big sound, hard to explain. The sounds are almost outside of your head and not inside it. Some people call it soundstage however its hard to tell there is something like that on headphones as well.

    Its first time I hear a 3D sound effect on regular DAC/Amps, I checked again all the specs but I don’t see any gaming DSP or something like that, its just Burson Play by default sounds like that. Especially on very well recorded music everything sound crystal clean and spread out, almost like a 3D sound recording.

    Out of curiosity I played some binaural recordings and I felt like I am tripping, wow, such an amazing experience.

    What can I say Burson Play really impressed my not only by its technical specs and build quality, but especially but it bold and big sound.

    I always felt like I was using a super-car when listening to Play.

    Everything is faster, hits harder to a point you feel you might damage your hearing…

    I left impressed and too bad I should give it back to its original owner, I am already thinking if it is worth buying one and I think it is. Definitely worth it, who I am kidding as I am saving for one already.

    Looking forward on trying the Fun in the next weeks.


      raoultrifan likes this.
    1. selvakumar
      Hi whats the USB passthrough you are using is it hum eliminator
      selvakumar, Sep 20, 2018
    2. raoultrifan
      PLAY has no volume control for its internal amplifier, the volume knob only adjusts internal DAC's volume. Not sure a Line-In would help much here, unless you want to use its internal 2.5X-gain amplifier as a "PA" (around 5V RMS) or add an external pre-amplifier to control the output volume. I think FUN would more appropriate to be used with an external DAC, as FUN has dedicated volume adjust control.
      raoultrifan, Oct 16, 2018
  3. cskippy
    Burson Play - Mid-Fi Excellence
    Written by cskippy
    Published Aug 31, 2018
    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

    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:

    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.


    Singxer SU-1>Yggy Analog 2/Holo Spring L1>EC Aficionado/ECP DSHA-1>PMx2, Utopia, Elex, HD650, HE-500
    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.
      C-Bass likes this.
  4. Dobrescu George
    Burson Play - Desktop Power
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Jul 31, 2018
    Pros - - Price/Performance Ratio exceedes most products in the 300USD Price Range
    - Textures Quality is impressive
    - Soundstage is both deep and wide, very holographic, but doesn't spread unnaturally, basically an excellent presentation of a large soundstage
    - Tonality is Spot-On, without any coloration, or any kind of tilting, it is neutral, natural, energetic and vivid
    - Dynamics are top notch
    - Excellent amounts of control over the sound, even at very high volumes, with both easy to drive and very-hard-to-drive headphones
    - The overall sound is quick, textured, punchy, indicating both a really impressive impulse response, and a really nice power delivery solution
    - Detail and resolution are also very impressive, some of the best there can be at this price range, outdoing most 300 USD competition with ease
    - Full Metal, Trustworthy build quality
    - Firmware is as stable as it can be, no crashes, no random disconnects, it simply works
    Cons - - The unit gets warm while in usage, meaning that if it is used inside a desktop PC build, it needs some cooling around it, not an issue if it is used on a desk
    - High output impedance leads to hiss with very sensitive In-Ears, especially with IEMs lower than 16 OHM in impedance
    - High output impedance also indicates that it will perform slightly different across certain IEMs, especially relevant for IEMs which have their impedance lower than 16 OHM, or those which are sensitive to output impedance
    Burson Play - Desktop Power

    Burson is a large company working in high-end Desktop Audio components, including those which can be incorporated in a Desktop PC build. Burson Play is one of their highest-rated DAC/AMPs which can do way more than the price tag or the name implies, and we're going to also put it against much more expensive portable products, to tempting you to go desktop soon.



    Burson Audio is an excellent example of a high-end audio company. They have a 5-year warranty for their products, which by itself is amazing, but they also note on their homepage a lifetime-warranty for their OP-AMPs, so you know you're in for a treat working with a company which trusts their products this much. Their public relations people are also native in English and will provide you with utmost care in service along with good advice in picking the product best suited for you from their offer. They will also be taking care of you with their warranty, and make the process as easy and hassle-free as possible, for five years after purchasing their products, but having seen the quality of their products, we don't feel you'll be needing warranty any time soon.

    It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Burson Audio, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Burson Audio or anyone else. I'd like to thank Burson Audio for providing the sample for the review. The sample was provided along with Burson Audio's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Burson Play. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Burson Play find their next music companion. This review is part of a mini-tour organized by Burson Play and this unit will also be reviewed by other reviewers during this tour.

    About me



    First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:









    Burson packaging is not quite as fancy as some might expect, in the sense that the outer box is a simple black cardboard box, thing which may seem a little disappointing at first, but we'd like to remind everyone that Hard Disks come in plastic bags, and as Burson Play is marketed as, and can be treated as a Desktop computer component, this rather simple presentation isn't quite that unusual.

    After you open the initial package, you see the mastery of Burson products, as everything has its own compartiment, and the Burson Play unit itself is seated quite nicely in its own cutout. In the lateral compartments you can find all the accessories you'll be using to enjoy and have fun with Burson Play.

    The unit comes with a plethora of accessories, including cables, Power adapters, and other miscellaneous which you will surely find handy when along the way.

    Here's a full list of those accessories:

    Burson Play Unit
    PC Connection Cable Set
    Remote Control (optional)
    6.5mm to 3.5mm Socket Adaptor
    RCA Cable
    2.5mm hex key
    Power Supply
    100-240V AC

    There's not much we could have wished for to be included in the package really, they really thought of everything, and there are even small silicone feet to attach to your unit if you plan on having it sit on your desk and such.

    What to look in when purchasing a high-end DAC/AMP


    Technical Specifications


    Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

    The build quality of Burson Play is as good as it gets, which is like a tank. We're talking about a medium-sized device which is mostly a heavy metallic unibody. There is no flex if you press on the unit from any direction, the whole thing feels like it can withstand a serious amount of stress and pain, although, being a desktop device, this probably won't be the case.

    There is a volume wheel on the front, which is a digital controller for the volume, which works great. You can even press on the button to mute to unit, and you don't need to be too careful with it, as it is made really well.





    There is a 6.3mm plug on the front, which is just lovely, as it will be quite helpful in using some serious Desktop Headphones, and since you have a 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter included in the package, you really can fit any headphone with Burson Play. There is a Microphone jack as well with the unit, so you don't need to worry about plugging in your favorite mic at the back of your computer.

    There's a lovely display on the front of the unit, which displays the current volume in a deep blue, made of small LED lights. This gradual volume is in perfect sync with the volume wheel, as the volume wheel does not rotate freely, but has small dents which let you know when you increased or decreased the volume with a unit. This volume goes from 1 to 99, but for most headphones, IEMs and even if you connect a Speaker with RCA cables from the back of the unit, you're most probably going to stay within the first 42 steps of volume, unless you have some really power hungry headphones.

    The aesthetics of the unit are pretty cool, our review unit being black, with a stylised Burson logo on the front, and with most of the unit being made out of a matte metal.

    At the back of the unit you can find a USB plug for connecting Burson Play to your computer, a Molex Power Adapter, to feed power from your PSU to your Burson Play, a On/OFF Switch, and a Power Plug for connecting the outer power adapter to your Burson Play, which is used if you use Burson Play on your desk rather than in a desktop computer build. On this note, Burson included even a cable to route Burson Play from a USB Header from your Motherboard, so you really have all the bases covered, provided the case is a normal or larger sized desktop case.

    Now, a few notes about the build, Burson Play was thought to also be used as part of your dream multimedia PC, so it is constructed in such a way that it would fit in most computer cases just fine, providing an even better ergonomic and comfort than if it was constructed as a standalone desktop unit only. Even so, at Audiophile Heaven we mostly rely on iTX cases, which simply do not have the space necessary to install Burson Play inside, but we feel that it is a beautiful device to have on your desk while working or listening to music.






    The firmware and UI are very simple, or rather, not needed. Burson Play works natively with multiple desktop computers we have in our office, and it simply doesn't mind what kind of signal it is being fed. The drivers install easily on windows, and you can just enjoy listening to music as soon as you plug it in. It is capable of decoding PCM signals up to 384kHz / 32Bit (Highest there is), and DSD up to DSD 256, including Native and DoP. Basically, it covers anything you're likely to have around. The best part is that it even works on Android and iOS, and also MAC, so you have one device you can use with any other devices you have, from a Tablet, to the most powerful desktop setup.

    The output impedance is rated at around 8 Ohm, which means that some lower impedance IEMs will have some hiss, and that some very efficient, low impedance IEMs might also sound a little different on Burson Play than they do on most other sources. This means it is more of a Headphone AMP than of a IEM AMP. There are iFi products on the market, like iEMatch, which can help alleviate this.

    Other than that, Burson Play hasn't made any kind of issue for us, over the course of a few weeks of serious testing, it hasn't restarted or disconnected once, so we can say it is as stable as a device can be.

    At the end of the day, the build quality, the aesthetics and the Firmware are all within what we consider a Golden Level.

    Sound Quality

    The sonic signature in this review is measured with the default OP-AMPs, and we also measure the sonic performance of Burson Play's DAC, as we had the chance to connect it to our speakers, as the main DAC unit in our main listening setup in our office.


    There are a few other setups with different OP-AMPs, and we are going to look into those in a follow-up review as well, but right now we'll be talking about the least expensive, base configuration.

    The main way to describe its sound neutral. So dear neutral that it makes slightly warm sources like Opus #1s or Cayin N5ii sound quite warm in direct comparison. Other things that can be said about the sound of Burson Play is that it is powerful. The control and authority it has over sound is absolutely incredible, and we heard the flagships in terms of portable audio before, so we are accustomed to a really well-controlled sound, but Burson Play is totally incredible, especially when we consider the fact that it costs about 300 USD, which is roughtly the same price you pay for an entry-level to midrange Digital Audio Player.


    The bass of Burson Play is very deep, and very revealing, but most important, very controlled. There is no real trace of warmth or coloration in the bass, being absolutely neutral, but that is pretty much desirable from a source, especially from a desktop DAC/AMP, being one of the more important things when you own a larger collection of headphones and IEMs and you want to have something to drive them all without coloring their signatures. The bass goes as deep as you can imagine, but most importantly, it is very controlled, quick, can explode extremely quickly and recover just as quickly. Without much coloration to talk about, the bass can come off as very agile and able to bring the best your headphones and IEMs can do, especially for a DAC/AMP at this price point. When it comes to a desktop DAC/AMP, there are characteristics like the slew rate of the amplifier which may be quite a bit better than a similarly priced counterpart, but that is mainly because the physics of a desktop component allow it to be physically larger, thus allowing for higher quality components.


    The midange of Burson Play makes itself remarked once again by how transparent and colorless it is. The textures are fairly good, and everything feels right into its place, although, if we were to name something that really stands out, that is the amount of detail Burson Play has. The fact is, most high-end Portables reach this level of raw detail in general, and not most midrange devices, and since the most prominent two Players from the midrange price bracket we reviewed have been Opus #1s and FiiO X5-3, and we liked both of them, this is saying quite a bit about Burson Play. You can hear details, micro-details, textures and micro-textures if your Earphone, Headphone or IEM is able to reveal them. Burson hides nothing and acts exactly like an ideal source should, it colors nothing, hides nothing, simply presenting the listener with an accurate representation of the music that is being played.


    Now, the treble, is a story which we love, but which we understand will change with other OP-AMPs from Burson. The treble is really well-extended, energetic and neutral, a touch bright and cold, akin to how most ESS-family devices were described to sound in the past. This means that the sparkle in the cymbals of most songs will be very alive and lively, there is a stunning clarity all-around, and there is no smoothing or toning down of the treble. This doesn't say very much on its own, when we consider that most sources are supposed to sound this way, but it does say a bit about how universally match-able Burson Play is. Since it is so neutral, it won't color Headphones, so it provides a fun, punchy, sparkly and interesting experience with very different headphones, like Audeze LCD-MX4, Ultrasone Signature DXP, and Beyerdynamic Amiron. The treble texture is normal, it isn't very smooth nor very grainy, mostly within what we'd consider a natural treble texture, the IEM or Headphone doing most of the work to give it a tilt either way.


    Now the soundstage is something that differs widely between devices, sources, DACs and AMPs. Here, Burson Play is a good performer. The soundstage has a good size and depth, a generally pleasant layering, with enough layers for instruments to each play on its own, but it doesn't expand unnaturally, so instruments which are supposed to sound closer will be closer and forward, while instruments playing in the background will stay in the background. All in all, the width and height, along with the depth of the soundstage, are what we'd consider to be amazing for 300 USD, and good for any price range.


    The ADSR / PRaT are probably the other interesting part of Burson Play, since we first established that it doesn't really color sound much, and that it has a good soundstage, so the only remaining part to review (besides comparisons), is its ability to render textures. Here, we feel it does a good job. The macro textures are rendered with good clarity and expression, Masa Works Design and Mindless Self Indulgence both sounding pretty vivid and lively, while micro textures are well defined, but not brought very forward in an more revealing way. While they surely are in the sound, and you can hear them with IEMs and Headphones prone to revealing them, they aren't quite as revealed as the macro textures. We're quite curious how the other OP-AMPs will affect this part of the sound, as Burson markets the Vivid Burson Play as being able to really bring a lot more of the textures and micro-textures forward. We will acquire a set of the higher-end OP-AMPs to review them in a future article as well.

    Desktop Usage

    This is the place where we'd have our Portable Usage section, if we had one. At least for this review, it would make no sense to discuss how portable Burson Play is, as it is transportable at best. This is a full fledged Desktop Amplifier unit, so we can study other parts of it in the process.




    First thing, there is no cable or microphonic noise in Burson Play. We noticed that some users mentioned this being an issue with certain DAC/AMPs from other companies, so we did a little study to see if Burson Play has any, but there's no trace of such a thing. We're quite glad to note that we noticed it being dead silent regardless of where it was placed, including if it was placed on top of our speakers, so we can say that it is also well shielded from EMI or electromagnetic interference.

    The heat is another aspect we need to discuss about, as Burson Play gets pretty warm during usage. It won't get hot to the touch, but it gets fairly warm to the touch, close to how warm an iFi iDSD Black Label Micro can get while it is in usage, indicating that it may not be the best idea to place Burson Play within a desktop build, unless you can ensure that there is a good amount of airflow around it, or if you can point a fan towards it to make sure it stays nice and cool. This isn't a big issue while it sits on a desktop though, we can't notice that it is warm to be honest, unless we need to turn it off, thing which also needs to be mentioned. Burson Play needs to be turned off by either plugging out its power source, or using the button in the back. In a Desktop Computer build, this wouldn't be an issue, as it would turn off when the computer is turned off, but in a desktop usage, you need to flick the switch at the back to turn it off.

    You can always engage the volume button to mute the sound, by pressing on it, and this works fairly nice.

    There is a microphone 3.5mm input, although we haven't had a chance to test a lot about it, it works with our simpler microphones just fine.

    Now, we also have used Burson Play as the DAC unit in our desktop setup, and we need to note that it is doing an amazing job. It is better than other devices we had from this price point, connected in the same manner, like HIDIZS DH100, which we were using before connecting Burson Play, and once we had Burson Play in place, we realised just how great of an implementation of the DAC inside Burson has, since Burson Play manages to bring out far more detail to the ears of the listener, and to have a much better treble extension, feeling more natural and wider.

    This might also be because Burson Play also has the 2xRCA outputs which are designed for it to work as a DAC for a pair of speakers with their own AMP, while DH1000 is designed to be a DAC/AMP only, without a Line Out.

    Another thing we've noticed during our time with Burson Play is that it simply works. It doesn't matter which one of our machines it was connected to, it simply works, it never disconnects, never restarts, simply put, there is nothing to stop you from enjoying music while using Burson Play, and we consider this a true virtue for a device, and a really pleasant first experience with Burson Devices.


    Most comparisons have been taken with Edifier S1000DB, Audeze LCD-MX4, Dita Truth, Hifiman RE2000, Ultrasone Signature Studio, Hifiman RE800, Sennheiser ie800, Beyerdynamic Amiron, Ultrasone Signature DXP and iBasso IT04.


    Burson Play vs FiiO Q5 (AMP5) - Here's a tricky one, as, if you've been following our articles, you probably know how much we love FiiO Q5 and its price/performance ratio, offering virtually the same sound as FiiO X7mkii, for as little as half of the cost. Starting with the build quality, both devices are fully made of metal, both devices have a volume wheel, and both devices have a build quality that can take a beating and come back for more. Both devices are shipped with all the extras you could ever require to drive them, including all the cables, connectors and accessories to take full advantage of them. The differences start to appear when you consider each of their intended usage scenarios. FiiO Q5 is a stack-able DAC/AMP which you can strap to your smartphone, to have the sound of a high-end DAP, while Burson Play is a midrange-priced DAC/AMP supposed to sit on your desk or inside your desktop computer build. This means that you can only use Burson Play while inside, while you can take Q5 on a trip on a mountain, or when biking and such. The differences in sound are smaller than you might expect, and they are in the advantage of Burson Play. By Power Rating alone, Burson Play can drive virtually anything that is on the marketing at this moment, save for that one or two headphones that need a little more push. From IEMs to most Planars, it wouldn't have an issue to drive Audeze's heavy artillery Headphones, but it can also work well with IE800 from Sennheiser. FiiO Q5, on the other hand, is also extremely potent, being able to drive almost anything, starting with IE800, up to Audeze LCD-MX4, which it drives incredibly well. Now, the largest difference between the two isn't in the detail, or in the tonality, as both are pretty neutral, and their detail levels are similar. When it comes to their textures, Burson tends to express a little more detail in the macro and in the micro textures, showing a little more of what is going on within the texturization of a musical instrument, and having a larger power source, it makes sense since it has improvements in slew rate and impulse response, which simply aren't quite as possible within a portable, battery powered-device. Of course, this also increases the noise floor a tiny bit, since batteries are a tad quieter in terms of noise floor generally speaking. There is also a difference in how controlled and in how much authority Burson Play has, thing which can be heard even with something smaller and easier to drive, like Ultrasone Signature DXP. Especially at louder volumes, Burson Play keeps a better overall punchiness and impact, along with better control especially over the lower frequencies, but then again, FiiO Q5 was already excellent in this aspect, just imagine adding a bit more topping over an already excellent thing. Since the two setups are priced similarly, with Q5 costing a bit more, we can say, that despite those facts, both are excellent value for their money. This is because Burson Play requires more to be enjoyed, as you can just strap Q5 to the cheapest smartphone on the market and go on a trip, bus ride, or a walk and enjoy its quality, while Burson Play, by nature, is a desktop device, so although sonically it can sound even better than Q5, you can't listen to it while on-the-go, which was Q5's main focus. Adding to that the fact that Q5 also has Bluetooth, and you can see that if you require a portable device, Q5 is really an excellent choice, while if you don't need it to be portable, then Burson Play is going to provide an even better experience.

    Burson Play vs iDSD Micro BL - We considered iDSD Micro BL to be one of the best DAC/AMP devices we tested back when we tested it, and we even considered it to be the pinnacle of DAC/AMP technology. At that point, the title was actually well deserved by iDSD Micro BL, there was barely anything better on the market, and even if there was, it costed more than 4 times more, so we considered it fair to give iDSD Black Label the title of the pinnacle. Now, Burson Play probably won't be the pinnacle of desktop DAC/AMP technology, and we most certainly believe that the improved OP-AMPs can get it closer to this title, but when it comes to Burson Play vs iDSD Micro BL, the fight is one of the most interesting we've seen in years. As you might expect, both devices are really well built, both feel and look astonishing, and both make excellent value. Now, iDSD BL doesn't come with all the cables one needs to enjoy it, missing the OTG cable it needs to connect to a typical smartphone. Happily, iFi makes such cables now, although you have to order them with the unit, for a little price. If you plan on enjoying Burson Play with a portable source, like a smartphone or a tablet, you should order those cables for it as well, as it doesn't come with an OTG cable either, and you need one to connect it to most Android-based devices. Now, let's split the comparison to both the DAC and the AMP parts. This is because iDSD BL and Burson Play both can be used as a standalone DAC, and as a DAC/AMP. On the DAC side, iDSD BL surely features a more complex, more recent and better overall DAC Unit on paper, but as always, the implementation is the most important aspect of a DAC unit. Here, both companies have done a great job at implementing their DAC units the best they could, both DACs having extreme amounts of detail and resolution. iDSD BL has a touch more detail, but its textures are slightly smoother, with a similar depth to the sound on the DAC side. Burson Play has a slightly wider sounding DAC with more emphasis on textures and texturization. On the Amplification side, iDSD BL has somewhat more power than Burson Play, and it is a portable unit, but in sound it comes off as quite the other way around, iDSD BL being more gentle in certain areas. iDSD BL has a deeper sound, with a more realistic soundstage, while Burson Play comes off as wider, more energetic, providing a more revealing texture, although it doesn't necessarily have a better resolution on the overall level. Both devices sound very effortless, both devices have an excellent sonic performance in every way imaginable, and both are great to listen to. Areas where iDSD does better than Burson Play are also in the fact that it can be used portably, although it still isn't quite as portable as FiiO Q5 or HIDIZS DH1000, both of which are smaller and easier to match with portable devices. The other aspect where iDSD is a clear winner is in its performance with very sensitive, very low impedance In-Ears. iDSD BL is able to keep its signature consistent across all impedances, and it is able to provide a hiss-free sound due to the fact that it has the iFi tech for hiss reduction already built-in. Now, when it comes to their price, Burson Play is almost half of the price of iDSD BL in its base configuration, so Burson Play is surely lighter on the wallet, the basic differences between the two being that Burson Play has a more energetic and more textured sound, with a similar resolution as iDSD BL, while iDSD BL provides an added portability, higher power rating, and a more consistent performance, with less hiss, with very low impedance In-Ears. The choice here depends a lot on your budget and also on your usage scenario, but if you're considering iDSD BL at this point, we also suggest reading our upcoming review on xDSD from iFi as it is much smaller physically than iDSD Micro Black Label, if you wanted it for portability. As for Burson Play, we surely recommend it at its price and sonic performance, and most importantly, if you don't require to listen to it while on-the-go.

    Burson Play vs HIDIZS DH1000 - The main factor for us including this comparison is the fact that the two devices are priced similarly, so one who has around 300 USD may have to decide between the two. The package is more complete for Burson Play, with more devices being included, especially when it comes to interconnects needed for usage with their intended host devices, Burson Play being mainly a desktop device, with most of its connectors being prompted towards a Desktop computer or laptop, while DH1000 is made for a portable usage, so it is made to connect with a smartphone or music player rather than a computer. The build quality is great on both, we don't have any complaints for either device. The firmware of DH1000 could use an upgrade which made it turn off while not receiving any signal, but the same can be said for Burson Play, as both devices stay on even without any input. For Burson Play, this doesn't make much of an issue, but for DH1000 it is something you need to look out for since if it stays on at all times, it will drain its battery and it won't be ready for your next trip in time. The sound is quite a bit different. First thing you need to take into account is that while both FiiO Q5, iDSD BL Micro, and Burson Play can act like a standalone DAC, DH1000 can not. Another thing you need to take into account is the power rating. We compared Burson Play to two more expensive devices, but since DH1000 is an excellent example of a 300 USD DAC/AMP, you need to consider that for 300 USD, Burson Play has considerably more power as a DAC/AMP than most of its direct competitors, being able to drive Headphones that are considerably more power-hungry than DH1000 or most of its direct competitors can. DH1000 has a Balanced output, which Burson Play doesn't have, and DH1000 can play music from both its balanced output and its single ended output at the same time, although we still aren't quite sure if this was intended, or if it is a bug. The tonal signature is quite different, DH1000 is smoother, more relaxed, less revealing, while Burson Play makes itself remarked with a considerably better extension in the treble, a better detail level, having more resolution and more control, authority, and sounding more vivid, wider and deeper. If there is one area where DH1000 does have an advantage, that is in how it drives easy-to-drive IEMs. Burson Play has a high output impedance of 8OHM, which doesn't work quite that well with IEMs, especially with sensitive IEMs, hiss being audible with very sensitive IEMs, while DH1000 is silent in terms of hiss. Another aspect you may want to take into account, again, for IEMs, is that DH1000 doesn't change its signature with low-impedance IEMs, while Burson Play can get a tad brighter with extremely low impedance IEMs due to its relative high output impedance. Between the two, if you're going to use any IEM with the impedance above 32 OHM, or any headphone, and if you don't need a portable device, Burson Play sure looks like a dominant thing in the market, while if you only have IEMs with the impedance below 32 OHM, and if you need something portable, then DH1000 makes an interesting choice. If you have only low-impedance IEMs, but if you don't need portability, then Burson Play may still make a better choice due to its better detail and resolution, and taking into account that hiss can be silenced with iFi products, it surely doesn't seem like a bad deal, but if you need something to take on a walk, or anywhere, DH1000 instantly becomes more appealing. DH1000 also has a 2.5mm Balanced output, which Burson Play doesn't have, but at the end of the day, the two devices are quite different and this comparison shows quite well how Burson Play is such a great buy at its price of 300 USD, if you don't require to listen to it while on a walk.



    Burson Play + Ultrasone Signature DXP - This is one of our favorite pairings with Burson Play, as it gives Signature DXP both an excellent width for its soundstage, but also an incredible amount of energy and impact. Signature DXP is generally quite a dynamic headphone, and with Burson Play driving it is even more dynamic and impactful, which works well with their U-shaped signature. It is hard to have this setup on your head and not start headbanging even if you were just working on writing on something.

    Burson Play + Audeze LCD-MX4 - Although LCD-MX4 is Audeze's line of very portable Headphones, they still show an interesting improvement from being powered from a strong source like Burson Play. We can describe the sound as being incredibly detailed, vivid, forward, wide, very textured and incredibly dynamic. The impact of this pairing is also quite something to see for yourself, especially since we generally recommended adding a few dB's of Sub-Bass and Treble to Audeze LCD-MX4, with the control and authority the Burson Play has over their bass, this need being smaller than with most portables, like Hiby R6, where we felt LCD-MX4 needed more bass and treble.

    Burson Play + Beyerdynamic Amiron - This is another pairing you fall in love just by hearing it. Amiron is probably one of the most gentle and comfortable headphones we heard, an excellent example of a relaxing headphone you can simply lean back with and forget about anything that was bothering you before plugging them in. The pairing provides a bit more width, to Amiron's already nice depth, and it also provides a slightly more textured sound, making Amiron feel even more dynamic.

    Burson Play + Sennheiser IE800 - Sennheiser IE800 is an interesting IEM because although it has a pretty low impedance and high efficiency, it surely isn't affected much by hiss nor by Burson Play's rather high output impedance. The sound is as interesting as IE800's sound always is, dynamic, well separated, well layered, detailed, with a strong and well-controlled bass, sparkly treble, and clear midrange. Everything feels in its place, and as a bonus, the sound is wider than IE800's sound usually is, and it also feels more dynamic than it usually does.

    Burson Play + iBasso IT04 - While our review on IT04 is still on the way, we want to give you a little peek on how it sounds like. It is a natural and well-balanced IEM, with a touch more sparkle in the treble than what would be dead neutral, it has a very quick sound with an excellent PRaT, and they sound very wide in their soundstage, especially compared to most IEMs in their price range. Although they are very open-sounding, they do isolate very well and leak very little, making them an excellent choice for on-the-go listening, or for blasting death metal while reading obscure books in a library. When it comes to their pairing, Burson Play does show some hiss with IT04, and the sound has slightly less bass than with most other source, but they also gain a very quick impulse response, an even wider soundstage than they usually have, and they also sound considerably more impactful than they usually do. Quite an excellent pairing on the overall level, if you're not bothered by hiss, although that can easily be solved by adding an iFi iEMatch to the setup.

    Value and Conclusion

    We reached the end of our review, and we have to say, Burson Play has been one heck of a device to listen to and review. We also still need to review the higher-end OP-AMP for it, as soon as we can get our hands on a pair.


    Burson Play is priced at roughly 300 USD in most places of the world, which is quite an interesting price point. Fighting is intense at this price point for most Headphones and In-Ears, but most portable players from the high-end area are priced higher, while most entry-level ones are priced lower. This doesn't mean that Burson Play doesn't have a lot of devices it needs to overcome in this price, and quite on the contrary, since it is a desktop device, it needs to bring something more than more expensive portables do, to justify its price.

    Starting with the build quality, we have a medium-sized device made entirely out of metal. It doesn't just look like a tank, it is a tank. You'd have a very hard time doing anything to it, the casing is made out of thick metal, and it is one of the best we've seen to date. Not to mention that its volume wheel is also well designed, and all jacks are tight and well fit, so you really would have a hard time not giving it a golden rating for its build quality.


    The firmware is as solid as it can be, it never crashes nor disconnects, being one of the most stable devices we've tested to date.

    If anything physical about it should be mentioned as a negative, that is that it gets quite warm physically, while in usage, especially important if you're going to be using it inside a desktop build, as you will need to have a fan pointing to it to keep it cool.

    The sound is as impressive as one would expect from a company as renowned as Burson, it is very vivid, dynamic, punchy and has an excellent resolution for 300 USD. Most important, it has a lot of power, and an excellent authority and control over anything connected to it. The only downside is that it has a bit of hiss with In-Ears, and it has a slightly high output impedance, so it doesn't match quite that linearly with In-Ears, but this isn't a big issue, and we had an excellent time using Burson Play with Sennheiser IE800 and iBasso IT04.


    All in all, if you're looking for an excellent desktop DAC/AMP, which can provide lots of enjoyment for you, both through headphones, or even acting as a desktop-grade DAC, Bursin Play makes a very compelling purchase, and not only it will drive your High-End Audeze Headphones, but it will also do it with an excellent degree of authortiy and control, providing what we consider an excellent overall experience.

    Playlist used for this review

    While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.

    Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
    Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
    Obscurcis Romancia - Sanctuare Damne
    Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
    Manafest - Impossible
    Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
    Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
    Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
    Doctor P - Bulletproof
    Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
    Eskimo Callboy - Frances
    Incubus - Summer Romance
    Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
    Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
    SOAD - Chop Suey
    Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
    Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
    Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
    Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
    Fall Out Boy - Immortals
    Green Day - Know The Enemy
    Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
    A static Lullaby - Toxic
    Royal Republic - Underwear
    Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
    Eminem - Rap God
    Stromae - Humain À L'eau
    Metallica - Fuel
    Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
    Masa Works - Golden Japang
    REOL - Luvoratorrrrry

    I hope my review is helpful to you!

    Stay safe and remember to always have fun while listening to music!

    Contact us!





      snellemin likes this.
    1. snellemin
      Great review man!
      snellemin, Jul 31, 2018
      Dobrescu George likes this.
    2. Dobrescu George
      @snellemin - Thank you! <3

      Really glad to help bring this one little gem to the surface, for 300 USD, it is a killer device :)
      Dobrescu George, Aug 1, 2018
      snellemin likes this.
  5. Mij-Van
    All About That Bass
    Written by Mij-Van
    Published Jun 10, 2018
    Pros - Power and muscle.
    Cons - No real line-out. Matt finish case.
    This is a review of Burson Play Basic.

    Long time lurker here, I’ve learned quite a lot from reading on HeadFi and comparing reviews with my personal impressions. Therefore I was quite delighted when the fellow HeadFier @DjBobby lent me the Play for 2 weeks to test it. I wouldn’t like to repeat the specs and technicalities which are stated and reprinted in almost every review, but focus more on my personal observances.

    The Burson Play doesn’t have serial number. It can be used in the PC case or on the desktop with 4 adhesive silicone rubber feet attached. It comes with high quality RCA audio cable, actually two of them. You get one mono cable for each channel of aprox. 55 cm lenghth, which is very convenient for desktop use. Connecting headphones doesn’t mute the pre-out. It get's quite warm. The case in matt-metallic finish isn’t quite ideal, being a magnet for dust and fingerprints.

    Although in the Qobuz online review it was stated that the Play doesn’t work with IOS devices - it does. You can read the review with a help of Google translate here:
    I’ve tested it with all my iDevices and it worked without any problem. Using hi-rez audio on both Onkyo HF and Dan Leer’s Flac player, the Play had absolutely no issues, so I can’t understand why didn't the Qobuz team make it. What I didn’t get was playing DSD256 files. DSD64 and DSD128 had no issues but with DSD256 it always switched to PCM352.8 Khz.

    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg

    Sound impressions
    I am late 20’s music lover with special affinity for double bass, meaning I am listening predominantly to deep but clear bass sound. Not only the bass of course, but this is very tricky area for many dacs. Quite often you get just rumbling, double bass sounding like moving the furniture around your house and it is not easy to follow the pitch. Listening to the same recordings on the vinyl gives you mostly better pitch control, more layering and better instrument separation.
    The music I was using was the album „London Double Bass Sound“ feat. Gary Karr, „From Kirk to Nat“ with Rufus Reid, Miles Davis’ „E.S.P.“ with Ron Carter and a bunch of other pop, electronic and some classical music. Listening was done mostly with the Senns HD25 and HD598.

    All About That Bass:
    Short version - this is one of the best bass performances I’ve ever heard from the dac/amp combo. It’s punchy, clear, meaty, juicy, you name it. It was a joy listening over and over again through old recordings sounding being juiced up. The timbre was there, the pitch was easy to follow and and there was an overall authority to the low bass sound. The instrument placement was very realistic and palpable with lot of spatial information. Interestingly even on Senns which are already on the dark side, the Play never sounded mudded. There was richness to the upper mid-bass with nice transition to the lower mids.

    The lower mids were very rich sounding, almost euphonic and tube like, with nice color to the lower male voices. Going higher up it started to sound somewhat grainier and slightly rougher and there were times I was thinking about how better opamps would have contributed here.

    Very detailed and with lot of sparkle, maybe sometimes too much sparkle. On certain bad mastered recordings the treble sounded thin and acidic, with Sabre glare coming clearly through. Again maybe different opamps would have mellowed the treble.

    The soundstage is wide and moderately deep, with instruments sounding somewhat distant. It works great with big orchestral music. With some simpler acoustic music like Nora Jones, I would have wished being closer to the stage. Or the musicians closer to me.

    For $299 for the basic version, you can hardly get the cheapest Chinese no name dac/amp combo. If you find it, it still would be no comparison to Burson's excellent build quality and a 5 yr guarantee. It’s all about that bass and that bass is great. No brainer 5 stars.
      DjBobby likes this.
  6. Wiljen
    Burson Play - one extremely versatile DAC/Amp !
    Written by Wiljen
    Published May 20, 2018
    Pros - Very Versatile DAC/AMP with good power and tuning opportunities
    Cons - USB Only, no optical or coaxial inputs, AC adapter not as robust as rest of unit.
    I was loaned the Burson Play as part of the review tour and would like to extend a very heartfelt thanks to the crew at Burson Audio who really went above and beyond the call to make sure we had a working unit for the tour. I won’t elaborate here, suffice it to say other organizations might have decided to end the tour early rather than go through hoops to make it happen but Burson stuck with it and sent out another unit to finish the tour.

    The Play is an interesting critter. On the surface, it can be seen as an entry level DAC/AMP since at the heart of it, that is what it is. Beyond that, the Play is designed to fit in a PC bay normally reserved for a CD Rom drive. In PC speak, the Play fits in a standard ½ height 5 ¼ inch drive bay. The upside being, most full-sized desktop and tower configuration PCs have at least one available bay of this variety. The downside, is maybe not for much longer as direct download of software and use of USB drives have all but hammered the last nail in the coffin of the CD. Because of its design, the Play has both a connection for an AC adapter and a 4 pin Molex connector again designed for a standard CD power connector (12 and 5V DC power). I did not mount the play in my PC during the review tour but did use a 650-Watt PC power supply instead of the provided AC adapter for a good bit of the testing to simulate PC use.

    The play came shipped in a well labeled black box that while subtle, conveyed the needed details. Upon opening the box, two smaller boxes surround the main unit which sits in the center. The boxes contain the power brick and connecting cables as well as adapters for use of the play inside a PC case. Overall, nothing fancy about the packaging but nothing left lacking either. Well packed for travel and a good set of accessories and tools needed to mount the unit either as a standalone or inside a PC case. The unit also sports a stick remote which comes in handy as raising or lowering the volume in large increments is easier with the remote than the dial.

    The front of the unit has a 6.3mm jack for headphones, a 3.5mm jack for a microphone, a two-digit numeric display built into the face plate, and a large volume knob. The volume display is extremely well done with cutting the holes through the metal face rather than simply exposing the entire component. Some will complain about it being too bright for bedroom use but for most gamers who tend to adorn PCs with neon anyway, I suspect no such quarrels will be heard.


    A hex head screw adorns each corner of the case front and rear and allows for near complete disassembly of the unit in very rapid fashion if desired. It should be noted that while the front and rear screws are the same thread pattern and take the same Allen wrench (provided in the accessory kit) that the heads are enough different between front and rear that they need to be kept separate when taking the cover off the unit.


    The top cover is keyed so it cannot be installed backward as shown below, and tolerances are very tight so careful alignment is needed to get the unit back together.

    rail1.jpg rail2.jpg

    The rear of the unit is a bit busier than the front with a USB input on the far left, then the AC input, the 4 pin Molex DC input, a power switch, and a pair of RCA pre-outs at the far right.


    The sides have screw holes placed at the appropriate locations for mounting the unit while the top and bottom are solid metal painted a nicely subdued flat black.

    The paint job is susceptible to scratches so once used inside a PC case, the unit will likely sport a few battle scars and may need to be repainted if you later decide to use it as a stand-alone.

    The unit is designed to be opened by the end user as changing op-amps is not only possible but expected. The good news is sockets are well spaced to make replacement of op-amps very easy to do without having to worry about bumping a cap or resistor in the process.

    A diagram on the inside of the top cover shows clearly the proper orientation of the 5 replaceable op amps (3 doubles for the DAC side and 2 singles for the headphone amp).


    This is critical as mounting an opamp backwards not only wont work, it has potential to destroy the op-amp and the unit. My advice is take photos before removing the existing op-amps the play ships with. Be certain that all photos clearly show the proper orientation of the op-amp in the socket and have enough detail of the area around the socket to clearly identify each one. Once you have the new op-amps installed, compare to the photos just to make certain all alignments are correct before powering on. This helps prevent mishaps. (As a side note, when using the V6 Burson op-amps, the three doubles should have the label facing away from the center of the unit and the two singles should have the labels pointed toward the rear of the unit. When using the V5i, you have to watch the U notch placement as label orientation is less helpful as a reference since it is on top of the unit.)

    classicfront.jpg classicback.jpg withadapter.jpg withoutadapter.jpg

    The AC Adapter is probably the weakest link in the build as it is a standard laptop style brick with a barrel connector. Some conversion has to occur inside the unit as the power supply is only capable of 12V at 5A. While I understand use of this component as a cost saving measure and it worked fine (as did the 650 Watt PC supply I used to test), it is clearly not aesthetically of the same quality as the rest of the unit and appears to have been a bit of an afterthought.

    When using inside a PC case, make sure the Power supply can handle the additional draw the Play will demand. The AC Adapter is capable of providing 60 watts so that is a realistic estimate of what needs to be available from a PC power supply in addition to the other demands placed on it. Most gaming rigs have pretty hefty power supplies and should handle the play with ease. Small desktop PCs designed for office use probably will need an upgraded power supply to handle the addition of the Play to the case.

    The play came with V6 Classic Opamps installed in both the DAC and pre-amp sections and a pair of V6 Vivid Singles for use in the pre-amp stage. I had previously tested the Burson V6 and V5i and found my preference to be for the V6v for rock and blues rock and the V6c to be better suited to Jazz and vocal pieces where the extra energy of the vivid was a bit over the top for me. For that reason, I did my testing first with the unit as it arrived (V6 Classics in all slots). I then went back and replaced the two single op-amps in the output stage with the V6 vivids and did my listening tests for a 2nd time.

    In order to test the sound of the DAC independently of the built in amp, I used the pre-outs to connect to my Asgard2 and a first generation Valhalla. I then listened to all the same selections using the Asgard2, the Valhalla, and the internal Amplifier of the Play using several different provided Op-amps. (I wrote up the Burson Op-amps previously here).

    File types supported natively include all the expected varieties (FLAC, ape, etc…) at up to 384kHz and 32 bit depth. DSD is supported at 64,128, and 256 both natively and as DSD over PCM if desired.

    The play has good extension on both ends with good slam and authority in the bass and sub-bass with both the Classic and Vivids. I don’t see the Play as being bass-forward but did find that use of the Burson V6 Vivid op-amps did add a bit of coloration to the bass. Mids are well rendered on both sets of op-amps but are a bit more forward on the Classic than the Vivid. Treble sparkle is a bit more pronounced on the Vivid but both have good extension and air. I cannot fault the extension on either end with either set of the op-amps but can say conclusively that both add a bit of their own color to the sound.

    The Classics deliver an intimate sound stage with great separation and really fantastic imaging that is best seen on small ensemble pieces. I can see where this would be a great choice for gaming as the imaging really is spot on. Even audience noise appears to come from the opposite direction as the instrumentation which is quite a feat. Instrument separation is good on both but better on the Vivid which handles large ensemble pieces and exceptionally busy pieces with a bit more aplomb than the Classics.

    The play also handled busy tracks without getting muddy or thick and was able to maintain realistic timbre for both bass guitar and vocals (particularly so with the Vivids) which can be difficult to do. In the overall, I found the Play to be at least as good as any other DAC I have in the house at the moment. (Mojo, Bifrost, Audio-GD). Overall, an impressive showing for a $549 setup.

    I expected to find more differences than I did between the internal amplifier of the Play and the Asgard2 or the Valhalla external amps as having read the specs for the Play I was a bit concerned that output power dropped pretty radically as impedance went up. I was particularly puzzled by the listed 8 Ohm output impedance of the headphone jack on the play which would, under accepted theory, suggest a minimum headphone impedance of 64 Ohm combined with a power output curve that was obviously geared toward headphones 50 Ohms and under. It has since been pointed out that measured values show the output impedance at <1 Ohm when using 32 Ohm headphones which makes much more sense so this is probably simply a matter of documentation needing an update on Burson's site. Again, this is not a criticism necessarily as a quick survey of headphones aimed at the Gaming market found nothing over about 32 Ohm. The Play has more than enough power to drive anything under 300 Ohm and handled Oppo and Fostex planars without any problems. I also found it odd that the advertising for the Play all shows it with a volume set to 89. I suspect this was more to highlight the display than anything as even with notoriously power-hungry cans like the Fostex T50rp a volume setting of anything over 40 is going to do hearing damage and 89 is going to rupture your eardrums and cause brain bleeds in short order. I absolutely recommend you never set the Play at any volume above 20 before putting on your headphones and adjusting once you know what the output level is.

    The 00 to 99 granularity of the Play’s volume control is nice to have but makes large adjustments a slow process as it can take several turns of the knob to dial in the desired level. The remote control is faster for doing large adjustments as one can simply hold the down arrow and not have to twist the knob repeatedly to accomplish the same adjustment.

    I currently own a Bifrost/Asgard combo and can say without doubt that I could trade both units for the play and never miss either of them.

    While the play lacks the portability of the Mojo, it has better mids and delivers more power to hungry cans. This is a tough comparison as the two form factors are so different. On sound alone, the play is better.

    When compared to the Modi 2 /Magni 2 uber I use at the office, I can say again that the Play would make an equally compact and more versatile solution with the only downfall being a slightly lower output power. Since most of us don’t use our ultra power-hungry planars at the office anyway, I’m not sure that loss would even be noticed.

    If you want a small package capable of big things, you would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend your money than the Play. The Play offers more customization options than any of the other single units available at anywhere near its price point and offers the budget conscious a way to buy in stages.

    For those on a tight budget, the $299 entry price provides a great starting point and then as funds avail themselves one can add the Classics or Vivids (or dare I say Muses, Burr-brown, or someone else’s op-amps) to alter the signature as desired. Stepping up to $399 you get the V5i throughout which offers 95% of the performance of the fully discrete op-amps at 73% of the price. It is hard to argue with the math on that and would be the configuration I purchased if in the market today. For many, it will be an end-game PC sound system with fantastic dynamics, staging, and imaging for gaming as well as audio. For those where audio is above all else, they will find either the V6 Classic or the V6 Vivid (or some of both) to be to their liking and again, for the $549 asking price, It would be tough to find a better value. For those who haven’t yet played with a Burson product, I highly recommend you take this one out for an audition. Somewhere between the base model and the V6 Classics, you are bound to find a sound you like.


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      raoultrifan likes this.
    1. raoultrifan
      When used with 32-ohms headphones, PLAY's output impedance is <1-ohm (feel free to measure by yourself); probably when using 8-ohms cans the output impedance would be much higher! Also, don't forget there're no resistors or capacitors in signal path at the output of the output stage, there're just the output transistors and the protective relay.
      raoultrifan, May 21, 2018
    2. Wiljen
      Probably just a case of Burson needs to update the verbiage as it didnt seem likely that those figures fit.
      Wiljen, May 21, 2018
    3. ThomasHK
      Output impedance is independent of load...
      ThomasHK, May 22, 2018
      Baten likes this.
  7. BulldogXTRM
    Great Headphone Amp/DAC
    Written by BulldogXTRM
    Published Feb 23, 2019
    Pros - Price, sound and build quality, mounting options
    Cons - Sound stage could be a bit wider
    Review Of Burson Play
    Reviewed by Mike Brunner – Lead Guitarist of RĪvul

    Purpose of this review

    I’m a gigging musician (lead guitar/backup vocals), a forensic audio analyst, a wireless communications technician, a novice sound engineer, and an avid music lover with a wide taste in music. Being a forensic audio analyst is a plus when reviewing audio products simply because I know what bad audio sounds like and usually know how to correct it. My experience allows me to be familiar with the limitations of my own ears and the equipment I’m using.

    My perspective for all my reviews is based on these things. I don’t try to sugar coat things or bloat things to be better than they are. I’m just like everyone else and I want good value for the money in any product.

    I’m fair to the manufacturers as well. I always give them an option to respond to any concerns such as quality that I have during my review. I contact them directly and do so before my review is published to allow them to address any issues. I want to provide an honest and tangible review for prospective customers without being unfair.

    The Burson Play was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of this review by @Barra and Burson and will be returned upon completing my review.

    Now on to the good stuff.

    The Burson Play is a very sturdy build, with a metal casing. The versatility of the design is that it can be mounted either on the desktop or mounted in the case in any PC computer case with front mount openings. This versatility allows for a wide range of usage scenarios. The LED level indicator is bright and fully visible on the front of the unit. The digital volume knob large and very responsive.

    The overall build and design of the unit is well above average. Simple and effective.

    The real good stuff! This is what all of us audio geeks/audiophiles want to hear about. So when I first started this I decided to give myself a baseline using my pro audio gear. I first listened to my desktop DAW interface (Sapphire 2i4) and Midas M32. Both are designed to give pristine audio with no coloration at all. My monitors of choice this time were my 64Audio A18t and InEarz Euphoria. The 64Audio pairing is for technical listening with musicality, whereas the InEarz is for ease of listening.

    After setting up the baseline through listening to each interface for an hour the break down was the Burson Play is a very clean DAC/Amp. There was little to no noticeable difference to my ears. After listening to the Burson Play the transition back to my pro audio sources were nearly transparent.

    Across the entire audio spectrum the Burson Play seemed very flat. I actually hooked both the headphone out and the RCA outputs to my DAW to analyze the frequency response. In the lowest frequencies, the Burson Play showed a slight dip below 20Hz, and a slight dip above 20KHz. This simply put, in the audio range, the Burson Play showed a perfectly flat frequency response. Whatever you put in you get out. Near perfection for $299? Wow! Comparable to the output of a $4000 pro audio mixer? I was very surprised at this. Even though on the frequency analyzer I saw no issues, I did notice that the soundstage didn't seem quite as wide as my pro audio interfaces. There was no cross talk between the channels and after about 10 minutes of switching to the Burson it wasn't noticeable, after a quick switch, the staging was just slightly narrower.

    Real world application/Features
    I used the Burson Play for approximately 2 weeks as a DAC using the RCA output into my Midas mixer for playing music, practicing guitar and for playback. It never once had any issues and the audio remained crystal clear. Although for my usage I would like to have seen an input for my guitar, I see no issues for the average audio enthusiast.

    When trying to gauge value in any product I look at many areas, build quality, performance in real world situations and any shortcomings. As for shortcomings I saw no issues other than I would have liked the sound stage stereo width to be a little wider and an analog input for my usage would've been nice.

    All together the Burson Play was great DAC/Amp. It had no problems powering and I noticed no coloration to my IEM's. Outstanding product and value, a definite upgrade to normal computer audio and near perfect audio frequency reproduction.

    Good job Burson.
  8. rvcjew
    Review of the Base SKU of the Burson Play.
    Written by rvcjew
    Published Nov 24, 2018
    Pros - Packaged very well during shipping.

    Good Power on the amp side. Clean sound.

    Good USB Chipset.

    Comes with everything needed for case mounting including the RCA bracket for expansion slot and the internal USB header.

    Simple design with only an LED face, quarter jack headphone output, 3.5mm mic input and volume knob with push to mute. All power and input hookups in the back.

    Sound can be changed to how you prefer with any compatible opp-amps.

    Does not distort at higher volumes.
    Cons - IEM usage has slight hiss on the noise floor.

    No kind of gain adjustment.

    No S/PDIF in, only USB. Con for some.

    Next revision should use a SATA VS MOLEX power connector IMO.
    I'v purchased some Burson products in the past and so they offered to let me evaluate the Burson Play in its lowest stock form. I naturally took the opportunity as I'm very happy with their opp-amps in my current setups. I initially heard they were a good upgrade to the Xonar Essence STX so I picked up some V5 Dual's and was blown away how it sounded compared to the stock JRC2114. After that I got the XD-05 for portable use that I am happy with using a V5i Dual in it vs the Ti OPA1612 it came with. I also have the 2015 version NFB-11 with USB 32v2 and the TXO upgrades. I put the Play against all of these in it's stock form.

    First the specs:

    Second the Packaging, Accessories, Build and Looks:

    It comes with a tool to open it (I just used my own driver with a H2.5 for the front face and a T9 for the back), some very nice looking and feeling RCA cables, a USB cable for desk use, a USB cable for PC case use that terminates into a USB 2.0 header to go straight into the motherboard, and a bracket for the PC expansion slot that is a pass through of the RCA to the inside of the case and unit.
    It feels very solidly built with only 4 screws (2x front/2x back) that need to come out to make changes to the opp-amps in it. It uses a hook and slot shape on the top cover so that it can only fit one way on the unit and stay secure on the sides. nothing feels loose on the outside.
    Looks wise it is very subtle with a clean face that is all black when off and when on only shows the volume level in blue LED numbers. The sides have a slight slight indentation of lines to break up some the flat look. The sides also have 4 holes for mounting within a 5.25" bay. The back has a USB B, RCA preouts, large power switch, a barrel connector for desk power and a MOLEX connector for PC power use which I really think should be SATA as not many devices use MOLEX besides some pumps nowadays. The bottom has four rubber feet that you could remove for case use if needed.


    Desk use: It is a very nice size for a desk as it is the size of a standard optical drive. You only need to have the USB and and power from the included adapter rated for 12V-6A which are both in the back for good cable management.

    Internal Use: It just mounts like any 5.25" device then you power it with a PSU MOLEX connector and use the USB B to USB 2.0 Header cable to plug it directly into your Motherboard. If you will be using the preouts then you will need to also install the rear slot pass-though bracket and plug that into the RCA's on the back of the unit. You want to mount it where it gets good airflow as it will get as hot or hotter then a HDD.

    The volume wheel is a infinite spinning digital wheel that can also be pushed for mute.

    Driver Setup:
    For a Windows machine you only need to use the driver from there support site (https://www.bursonaudio.com/downloads/). Once you have that you can turn on and setup the device in your playback devices appropriately. I used 24Bit 44.1Hz for all my OS testing and for music it was WASAPI in Jriver MC 24 with no DSP's.


    Stock: While Stock compared to my NFB-11 which is pretty wide in sound-stage and slightly bright I would say the Play is narrow (a good thing for gamers) and neutral making imaging excellent. If you are a gamer and want to do some serious FPS gaming and want to hear just footsteps ect, it will work very well. The Play is just as detailed as the NFB-11 as well.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Opp-amp Rolling: This is one of the key features of the Play in my opinion because if you have either Bursons or another companies opp-amps in an older unit already and just want a solid hardware platform to switch to and experiment with the implementation of the XMOS chip in this one is very OS friendly.

    Power: While having no gain control I would say all my current headphones (M50, PortaPro, K7XX, TH-X00, M1060) are pretty easy to drive but it still has plenty of room to spare for some higher impedance ones. I mostly spend on the 10 mark and 16 mark if the AC is on. This is out of 99. It does not distort at the higher volumes either and seems clean in the whole range.

    My IE80 is my only go to IEM for use today but it and my M300s have a small bit of static on the noise floor of this amp so I would expect all lower impedance ones would. This can probably be minimized depending on the opp-amps used in the unit but I was asked to review it stock so that's what I heard. Even with the louder noise floor it was still clear though at all volume levels.

    Since Black Friday I snagged some AF180's will will update on whether those have the same noise floor or not when I test them.

    Overall The product is excellent and I have not had any short comings with it and it's trick to be in a case is going to be be a must for some specific people and a great desk combo regardless that has that Burson build and quality sound.

    I again would like to thank Burson for letting me evaluate a part of there market I did not even realize they were in.


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  9. Fasterball
    Burson Play Basic - I love this thing!
    Written by Fasterball
    Published Oct 12, 2018
    Pros - Mic Input, Build Quality, Burson Customer Support, Unrivaled Sound in its Price Range, clear and fast sound, Op-amp rolling, Digital Volume Display, Big Volume Adjustment Knob, Phenomenal Sound Stage, tons of power (easily drives everything I have)
    Cons - drivers, no ability to pair a different dac with it
    This is the first review I have ever attempted to submit. I'm a fledgling audiophile - I'm still working on the ability to hear and describe all the things I'm hearing like you folks often articulate so well. I love great sound and believe I can appreciate the subtle nuances I hear between different dac/amp offerings. I'm coming from the quintessential Schiit Stack and the Audioquest Dragonfly Red - my sense is that the "Burson Play" outclasses both of these dac/amp offerings. [​IMG]

    Some Stumbles at the Starting Line

    I ordered the Burson Play directly from Burson Audio online. I almost immediately received a "thank you for your purchase" email but I did not receive any information about when shipping would occur. I didn't even receive an invoice number or purchase order number. The only thing I had to even reference my order was the paypal transaction number but that was provided by paypal. It wasn't until 3-4 days later that I received an email from Burson regarding shipping and tracking info. Once that hiccup was out of the way, shipping was relatively quick despite the fact my shipment was dispatched from Hong Kong. It was shipped on September 29th and arrived on October 09th. Dang Amazon has me getting impatient on any package I have coming my way. I feel it necessary to note here that Burson's early lack of communication was not at all indicative of their overall customer service. It was, as the heading states, just a stumble.

    Once my package arrived I was impressed by the clean-all aluminum-industrial look of the device. I know Burson designed this device to be placed in a standard drive bay of a computer but it looks really great out on the desk. Some folks have complained about the heat this device puts out. I have been running it now for 24 hours straight (I'm listening to it as I type this) and it feels no warmer than the Magni 2 I have after a few hours of use. That being said, I am a freak about my pc temps and I would not want this extra heat inside of my pc. That's especially true since it looks so good out of the case.

    Another stumble was the shear lack of documentation that came with the device. So many cords come with the device but only 2 are pertinent to setting up the device if you have it outside of the case and that is the USB cord and the power cord. The remainder of the cords are utilized when you install it inside of the case. There are no instructions explaining how to go about installing the device inside of a pc case. There is nothing to let you know that a driver is needed for the device to work as it should. When you go to their website they suggest that there are two drivers you need for windows 10. I learned from Burson that for the play I only needed the xmos driver. This was after several hours trying to install the cmedia usb 2.0 driver. Windows 10 seems to have its own xmos driver now but at the time of typing this it was still having issues and device manager would say the device did not have a driver so I decided to use the driver provided by Burson. As I was figuring this all out Burson's customer service was on point. They were quickly returning my emails and answering my questions as I was struggling to learn how best to set it all up. I think much of our back and forth exchange could have been limited if Burson included some instructions or even a card saying go to this website for a manual.

    The last gripe I have or stumble is the included usb cord is impossibly short. I have mine currently sitting on top of my pc chassis because it will not reach my desktop. Now granted this would be a none issue if my pc was on my desktop but it sits under my desk so the shortness of the included cable was painfully apparent. It would be nice if they could include a slightly longer USB cable.

    Setup Complete - How's it sound?

    For the Play Basic Burson recommends a burn-in period of 50 hours. This burn-in period is very important to accomplish prior to resting on any final decision about the Play. When I first got it set up and started jamming out to music and watching youtube videos I was fatigued by the harshness of the slippery S sounds. The device was sibilant and very bright by my estimation right out of the gate. It didn't help that I was listening with a pair of headphones that had a cable made from canare quadstar cable that is on the bright side. This sibilance and brightness became more subdued after the burn-in period was complete. The Play warmed up nicely, more bass came out of it then was previously there. Even after the burn-in period it remained on the bright side but it wasn't as in your face about it as it was before. I have really enjoyed the combo of my rather dark Audioquest Nighthawks and the Burson Play. I feel like they complement each other really well although the Play has way more juice than is needed by the Nighthawks. I routinely listen with the volume level at 15 with these headphones.

    The headphones I used to test the Play out are as follows: Audioquest Nighthawks, AKG K712 Pro, Hifiman HE 400i, and Audio Technica AD900X.

    The playlist I used to evaluate the Play is as follows: Riding for a Fall by Chris Ledoux, Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks, Hotel California by the Eagles, Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa, Mr. Bojangles by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dragonborn by Jeremy Soule, Forgot about Dre by Dr. Dre, In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins, Hallelujah by Pentatonic, and The Master's Call by Marty Robbins.

    The thing that stood out to me the most in running through the above playlist with each of my headphones is how the sound seemed livelier, more energetic, and faster than when I listened to it on the modi/magni and dragonfly red. I'm not sure what accounts for this but the music was more engaging and for me fun to listen to. The drum riff in In the Air Tonight dang near got me up out of my seat with a "hell yeah" it was so awesome.

    The sound stage on the Play is unreal. I included some songs in my playlist just to test the sound stage. Yosi Horikawa's Bubbles was so cool to listen to. With the clarity and sound stage the Play offers I felt like little balls were bouncing all around my head. At one point I even turned to look, slightly freaked out by how real the directional audio felt. Gamers will love the Play for the mic input as well as the solid directional audio that can be experienced while using it. The Master's Call sounded awesome too as the recording has the back up vocals coming from one direction and the instruments coming from another with Marty Robbins coming at you from the center. I felt transported to the Opry Stage as I listened to this track.

    The mids and highs are clear and detailed and after burn-in, not overemphasized. The bass is a little lacking but becomes more apparent after burn-in. Listening to my playlist with my HE400i's, the planar magic really shines through as the amp supplies really clean and effortless power to them. I love how that planar bass sounds so smooth on the Play despite not having the greatest sub bass extension.

    The included mic input pairs really well with my Mod Mic. Previously I've had to enable onboard audio or use a cheap usb dongle with mic input to use my Mod Mic. This is no longer the case as my high quality amp/dac is now also my mic input. I love this feature. I love that I can have audiophile grade sound quality with a class A amp and my mic input all in one place. It makes my mic sound so much better than before as well! The Play has it all for a gamers and music lovers alike.



    I love this device! This is my end game... for now... lol! To me it's beats out the Schiit stack and the Dragonfly Red. I know at $299 the Play comes in at about $100 more than these two options, but it's really not even close in my mind. To me it is absolutely worth the extra $100 in sound quality alone but then when you throw in the mic input and the clarity it gives your voice then the raw value here becomes clear. I am excited about the prospect of opamp rolling. I'm satisfied for now but I know the upgrade bug will surely hit me soon and when it does instead of buying new hardware I can buy some opamps.
  10. ngoshawk
    Let's go to the Play-ground
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Aug 23, 2018
    Pros - Excellent build.
    Multi-usage ability.
    Sound of which benefits audio and gamers.
    Powerful enough for most headphones.
    Cons - Can get a bit warm (but taken care of in a PC with a fan.
    Low-level noise with sensitive IEM's.
    No balanced out (but not unlike it's peers).
    Not much else.
    Burson Play Classic (with Vivid Op-Amps included)- $549 https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/play/ 5-year warranty.

    There has been a lot of fuss surrounding the Play. Released several months ago, the Head-Fi thread is still very much alive and kicking (https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-burson-audio-play-amp-dac-2w-16ohm-op-amp-rollers-dream.860882/). I will admit, I do not know much about Op-Amp rolling, but from what I have read, it is another way that manufacturers can “fine tune” the sound of their wares. This can be done readily by the user and can run from inexpensive to QUITE expensive. As this unit has moved through several hands, Burson included the single Op-Amp Vivid module as well as the included Classic modules. You can go “as low” as $299 for the basic model, and purchase the modules separately, or opt for the higher line Classic or Vivid. From my readings, the Classic is tuned more towards a bass-oriented sound, with natural sound (and I concur). The Vivid provides a more “lively” analytical sound for those who wish that. Coming with a 5-year warranty says something about the confidence Burson has in their product. Good for them.

    Burson Audio, an Australian company, is known for making very good amps. The Soloist and Conductor are two that have sold very, very well. With the Play, the company went a slightly different route. One can certainly plug-and-play (pun intended), but for those who wish to fine tune, that is where the different Op-Amps come in. Something that many audiophiles are turning to. Personality of their own gear. I’m in, for the first time.

    I will thusly admit that I was looking forward to rolling amps. This is a nice alternative to changing cables, or tip rolling; which allows the user to personalize or fine-tune to their desired sound. What I can say is that right now through my MacBook Pro using the Simgot EM5, on Damian Marley’s Here We Go, there is more than enough bass to satisfy me. I am not a basshead but do enjoy a nice rumble with my sound. I do like what the Burson has provided so far.



    · 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


    Since this was a tour unit, there was already some wear and tear on the box. That said, the innards were well protected using foam all around and the two accessories boxes on the sides. Included was the amp itself, a power cord (with AC/DC adapter), remote, Vivid Op-Amps (and tool used to open the chassis), dual RCA into single RCA cable for use as a Pre-Amp, a 6.3mm to 3.5mm jack adapter, a standard USB to USB (?) cable for connection to your source, and the necessary cable to use within your PC tower (and a different back plate for use in PC). Touted for gaming, the Play has been received well in the gaming community for its clarity and detail. Something necessary for active games and role-playing games.


    Since I do not have a PC, I will focus upon the Classic and Vivid Op-Amps and connection to my devices. That said, the vast majority of my time was spent hooked to my MBP, utilizing several different IEM’s and the Focal Elear.

    The build quality of the Play is as expected, top notch. A basic black box, with a welcome digital volume readout on the front as well as a rotating volume knob (not the most accurate if you spin fast), a microphone jack (for headphones with mics), and 6.3mm jack. The back (L to R) has the USB jack for connecting to your source, power plug, an on/off red toggle switch, and the RCA L/R channel connection. Not much there, but with the innards as the main course one need not worry about different connectivity. Sitting innocuously on one’s desk, it could be almost overlooked as a time piece, or external hard drive. And, I do like the understated nature of that plain black box. This is not one for flash.

    I will state that on this copy, the volume knob does not represent one-click per number. I often find raising or lowering the knob one at a time will result in the number jumping up/down the desired amount, then returning one number up/down. I don’t think the calibration of the knob/digital readout is precise enough. That said, is may well be that this unit has gone through several hands and most likely hundreds of hours. That could be the case as well.

    Comparison gear used:

    MacBook Pro
    Opus #2
    Shanling M3s

    iFi xDSD
    iFi Micro iDSD Black Label

    Focal Elear
    Unique Melody Mason V3
    Unique Melody Mentor V3
    Unique Melody Maestro V2
    64Audio U8
    Simgot EM5
    Kinera iDun


    Songs used:

    Too bloody many to list all, but you want songs, so there you go:

    Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
    Coldplay-A Message
    Coldplay-White Shadows
    Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
    Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
    twenty one pilots-Trees
    twenty one pilots-Car Radio
    twenty one pilots-Heathens
    Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
    Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
    Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
    Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
    Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
    Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
    Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado


    I will admit that for the vast majority of time, I had the Classic Op-Amps in. I enjoyed the bass note, which the Classic provided. Still with good detail, Damian Marley’s Medication sounded just as it should. Bass line to die for, cymbal detail of almost hissing quality (a good thing here…) and vocals, which were clear and prominent. This was becoming a nice treat from the get go. This was not some shout in your face look what I can do amp. No, this was a well-played laid-back sound, which grew on me. That is part of the reason I am having a very hard time putting into words what I heard and felt. It just played, providing a solid enjoyable sound.

    I must say that while any IEM I plugged into the Play sounded quite good, enhancing their respective sound, it wasn’t until I hooked my Elear in that the Burson showed its true worth and value. Harder to drive than most of my headphones, the Elear was taken to 35 (from 20-25) on the Burson in order to get the near-same volume of the IEM’s. In doing so, the Play did not start to shout at me, no it delivered a crisp, full, detailed sound worthy of inclusion in any conversation regarding the Elear. It was good, very good. Decent-enough bass to keep me interested, as well as mids, which complimented both ends without taking front and center. Vocal sound, which while not the best I have heard from “portable” amps (I do like my Black Label), certainly entertaining enough to make you appreciate what Burson has done to make an affordable desktop amp. Especially when you start comparing the Play to more expensive amps. Several reviews noted that the Play could easily be put into a conversation when talking about amps twice the price. I do think it can hold its own in that conversation.

    When one purchases such an amp as the Burson Play, half the fun is the tuning ability, which can be provided. Going from the Basic $299 model to all manners of this version at $549, you can fine tune with the Op Amp rolling. Unfortunately, I am not the best in which to decipher the finer points, so I will leave that to those with more expertise as in on the Burson Play thread, which still keeps going. I am simply not the best judge of that and will analyze from the amp stage only.

    Not having the Burson hooked up, due to vacation callings, I returned with anticipation at finishing this review. One does need dedicated space for such an endeavor and that was not conducive to traveling. But, a high point in selling the Play is its ability to be utilized in a desktop computer, using one of the 5 ¼” slots. Almost a novelty of a bygone era to me. Touted as a gaming amp for its accuracy, I can only recommend that the Play is indeed true of sound, with excellent instrumentation and separation.

    While providing me with that warmer sound of which I love, the detailed separation is not lost in that aspect. Touted in the gaming community for good reason, it is. With the detail of Mark Knopfler’s drummer in Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes, it is clear to the point of almost hearing the air movement of drum stick. I exaggerate a bit, but it is quite nice. On par with my iFi Black Label, which coincidentally falls into the same price point. I would point out that the Burson has decent enough treble for the audio enthusiast and gamer as well.

    Succinct, and accurate is what I would call that treble. Pleasant to my treble-sensitive ears. Want more? Switch to the Vivid Op Amp and you have it. Many a better ear than mine have espoused the virtues of the Vivid modules, and with what I could hear, I would agree. Changing is easy, except if you use the Play within your computer. That “lack of treble” to me in the Classic mode is all but thrown aside though, when Corazon Espinado comes through the Elear from Santana. Superb male vocals highlight the song, with Carlo’s sumptuous guitar emanating from one’s ear. The support drum instrumentation providing that push up top to very acceptable levels in my mind. Just a superb rendition of a voluptuous song. The Elear approve.


    Follow that with See Dem Fake Leaders from Ziggy, and the bass line draws you completely in, while the supporting horn line prods at your ear for full attention of the important message purveyed. Ziggy’s vocal harmony is the icing on the cake, and I can say that the Play is about as good as any amp in which I have listened at this price point. Versatile I would call it.

    Alpha & Omega from Jah Shaka sounds full, inviting, almost decadent in its hidden trippy sound. The Burson allows that trippiness to “play” through unimpeded, giving full meaning to the song. Follow that with Heathens from a perennial favorite of mine twenty one pilots, and you complete that trip ‘round the Play. I could auto-repeat those two songs happily for hours. And the Play would be a good companion in that pursuit of musical bliss.



    Close on the heels of the above paragraph, Van Morrison belting out Take It Easy Baby beckons me into that Jazzy haunt of a basement dive, wrought with drink and companionship. This is a sound, which escorts very well with whatever thrown its way. I will state again, that the Elear rose quickly to the head of the class in use as most of the IEM’s thrown its way were simply not at their best.

    As stated The Elear/Play combo yielded a full robust if slightly warm sound emanating from within. As that is my preferred sig, I did not mind. From day one of my auditioning the Elear, I knew it was the open headphone for me. And as luck would have it, when the Clear came about, many jumped on that bandwagon singing that this is what the Elear should have been!! Well, not to diss any of them, but I call bunk. The Elear is an extraordinary example of a high-end headphone at “affordable” prices. Those who jumped ship to the Clear do have that right, but I say good riddance. The Elear/Play combo simply fortified my belief in the above. And I was glad. Running Tidal through my MBP, the sound was rich, vibrant and full. With enough detail (MBP after all…) to keep me interested, this was a worthy addition to my desktop sound.

    Moving to the “portable” aspect, I hooked my Opus #2 up and gave a listen. Providing more detail than a MBP could ever provide, I streamed Tidal with even better results. What the MBP lacks in upper end, the #2 provided. Still utilizing the Elear/Play, I was quite happy with the result. Almost thinking, OK…how could one make the Play a portable option?...The Opus provided the air between notes, which the MBP could not. From that added detail, came more clarity and paired separation of instruments. While not my perfect set up with the Play, it was a very pleasing set up, which as mentioned yielded the most detail. Quite acceptable, indeed.

    Harkening back to the IEM-mode, I switched to the UM Mason V3/Mentor V3 pair I had on hand. Immediately I was met with some hiss (and if I can hear it, well then…) during pause. But, once the song started, there was no hiss. And as others have mentioned those with high impedance may face the same. But, as I said once the song started, the bliss returned. The V3 iterations are a true marvel, and a worthy step up from the V2, to which I have espoused every review. But, while the Mason/Mentor sounded quite good, there was to me a slight miss here. The Mentor still had that deep reach of bass, that the Mason lack in my opinion, but the sound was just not as satisfying to me. That said, take the Play out of the equation, and run a side-by-side of the Elear/Mason/Mentor through the #2, and there is that sumptuous quality of both again. As some have mentioned, some items simply do not pair with others. Take that as a “*” because the sound was still very acceptable to me, but behind the Elear.

    Running the Kinera iDun through my Shanling M3s and the Play raised both up a “level.” While the pair without the Play is quite a stunning pair of their own merit, here the Play raised the “qualities,” which make each good. Better detail was again wrought through the iDun, which has pretty decent detail with which to start. And as we know, the Shanling provides that warmer sound from the get-go. So, again the Play made the items plugged into each end “better.” Or maybe a more apt description would be “raised.”


    Finale et al:

    So…what is one left with when considering the Burson Play? For those who would like an affordable desktop/PC-worthy amp you can start with the Basic ($299) or v5(i) for $475/399. Then as needed, add the OP-AMP of choice. With the one on hand, we are lucky enough to have the Vivid modules and the Classic; and it was a treat.

    At that Basic-level price of $299, you are faced with the iFi xDSD in the portable realm as well as some others. While the xDSD retails for $399, and comes with more features, you can get the Play knowing you are getting a desktop amp, with the options to add modules later. That would of course bring you in line with the iFi price. A hard choice, whether to go portable with more features or simple and desktop worthy with that future upgrading capability. To me, they occupy two different realms, so it would be easy to get both.

    When we move upscale as this one is, then the comparison falls to the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label ($599) in my mind (plus I own one). With many more tuning options for sensitive headphones, and MOAR POWER; one must balance that against what you get with the Play. I call the BL transportable as it is quite large to take with you often. As such, it stays quietly on my desktop awaiting use. Here is where the decision would be again whether you want future upgrading (and in the same price) or immediate tunability without much loss in sound. I will state that for “pure sound,” the Play is a smidge ahead. But for fine tuning the sound, the BL is well ahead, and easier to modify on the fly.

    For the dedicated gamer, the Play would be an exceptional upgrade to their existing PC, short of those who have spent several thousand dollars. Add to that the “reality” of sound and placement some have mentioned (and in personal convos with others recently), and that was enough to sell them on the virtue of adding the Play to their gaming-unit. A nice two-fold win for Burson in that regard. Add in that while Op-Amp tuning is great, once a gamer settles on their preferred sound, the Play will most likely stay inbound on the PC and you have a very worthy addition to existing computers, which pretty much blow out of the water the existing DAC/amp in most. Again, a great marketing tool for Burson.

    So, it comes down to what exactly are you looking for in an amp. Will this be a long-term relationship, where one can upgrade to new OP-AMPs or portability? This is the real draw of the Play to me. You can start with a very good amp, and upgrade when funds become available. OR, opt immediately for the higher priced model and be quite satisfied. The Burson is a very good amp with which one could easily listen and own for a good long time, without being drawn into something “new and glittery.” And after all, isn’t good quality sound what we are after in a long-term relationship, anyway?

    I want to thank Burson for my extended time and listen. Without that extended time, I would not have been able to compare to some incoming gear, which aided my overall evaluation. And, they should be very proud of what the Play can achieve. Excellent sound at either end…the entry price or full-blown desktop amp. You can’t go wrong either way.