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Burson Audio Playmate

  • Burson-Playmate-S1-1.jpg

    Playmate 1.png

    Playmate 2.png

Recent Reviews

  1. deenoo
    Basic Playmate, from the Burson
    Written by deenoo
    Published Aug 28, 2019
    Pros - extraordinary noiseless
    sound quality is improved by replacing the operation amplifiers
    top quality components
    several power supply options
    can be housed in a PC ATX enclosure
    good price / quality ratio
    Cons - The Basic version does not include a remote :frowning2:
    Many have shown pictures of the Burson Playmate box, its packaging, and the cables, connectors, and technical specifications that come with the Basic version, so I won't go into that.
    The structure
    The Burson Playmate is a DA converter based on a SABRE32 / ES9038 chip (with microphone, optical and XMosUSB inputs), which contains a Class A headphone amplifier (6.3 Jack) and a digitally adjustable output level preamplifier (RCA). https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/playmate/
    20190731_134235_m.jpg Burson built Playmate from top quality components (Elna audio grade capacitor, Dale military grade resistor, Toshiba transistors) to enjoy it in the long run.
    Burson MCPS-S2.jpg
    Burson's self developed MCPS (Max Current Power Supply) power solution provides low-noise power to units quickly, which is a prerequisite for superb sound. https://www.bursonaudio.com/about-us/max-current-power-supply/
    MCPS 5pcs.jpg
    The Burson was not only meant for audiophile users, but also for gamers, as evidenced by the 4p MOLEX power connection (12V / 5A), microphone input and the fact that the Playmate can be housed in a PC ATX enclosure (5.25 ”drive bay).
    Xmos USB card_1.jpg Removing the XMOS USB card gives you the ability to connect an external device to the Playmate using an IIS interface.
    ES9038 I2S.jpg
    On the small LCD display with the menu selector button (at the bottom right of the front of the Playmate, there is a small button) plus volume rotary potentiometer (big rotary button) you can scroll through the menu and select from many options:
    Input: USB-B / USB-F / OPT
    Output: Headphone / Preamp
    Output Level: High / Low
    FIR Filter: Brickwall / CMFR / Reserved / Ap Fast / etc.
    DPLL (for DSD and PCM datastream): Off / Low / Mid / Hi
    Emphasis: On / Off
    Reset: No / Yess
    The Basic version is built with 4 pcs NE5532 operation amplifiers - in DIP8 sockets - which provides plug & play capability - depending on taste, aural ideas / expectations and your wallet - easy to replace opas.
    Burson also uses the upgrades of operational amplifiers (V6 Vivid & V6 Classic) to the higher-priced Playmate (V6 Vivid, Everest V6) itself, which is also reflected in the sound quality.
    Burson PLAYMATE_opamps.png
    Let's see how the designers used the 4 operational amplifiers.
    They split the LowPass Stage between two, so that one channel uses ½ of a dual opa in LPF and the other ½ in the booster phase. It means that two opas marked with I/V are used in the I/V section and the other two opas are used as LP / Headamp (½ for LPF and ½ for voltage amplification).
    This solution allows the shortest possible signal path e.g. for I/V and LPF signal processing.
    Crosstalk improves because two halves of the same opa work in different phases but share the same channel signal.
    Generally, crosstalk improves by using a single opa in the same I/V or LPF section, instead of double, which is almost like using a single opa.
    The use of a dual adapter (e.g. SOIC8 to DIP8) arises so you can choose which opa is used in LPF and in VAS.
    mono SOIC2DIP8.jpg
    Test & Sound
    I started the audition with the Playmate RCA output connected to a power amplifier.
    The volume can be adjusted gradually (between 99-0 in 100 steps). It can be adjusted according to our needs, taste and time of day.
    However, the remote control is missing, which does not come with the Basic version. :frowning2:
    At least a cheaper piece (e.g. in plastic case) could be included with the basic setup.

    The source of the audio was Raspberry Pi 3 B+, the software is MoOde Audio player.
    Raspberry immediately recognized the Playmate via USB, no further setup was needed.

    The basic NE5532s also produced a surprisingly pleasant, audible sound when first turned on.
    The sound is a bit veiled, as if it were from behind a curtain. The stage was a little blurry, but it provided a dynamic and long-lasting music experience.

    The sound experience was further enhanced when the 4 pcs OPA1612s were connected.
    The stage is wide, much more dynamic than the previous one, clear in height, with a slightly rumbling bass. I hear some roughness and rustling at the vocals and high tones.
    Depending on the recording, brasses sometimes sound loud.

    Operational amplifiers better than OPA1612 (eg Burson V5, V6) further improve the sound experience!

    I could try them with LifePO4 batteries, and the stage and instrumentation got bigger after the switching power supply was replaced. However, the dynamics decreased but it could be well compensated by increasing the volume. The roughness and the rawness is gone. The change was most evident in the vocals, violin (strings) and brass.
    The tone smoothed, it became more alive and subtle. It shines from a black background and is characterized by a huge atmosphere.

    So Playmate produced long-listening, remarkably calm and even exciting music.

    It is worth trying with a better quality linear power supply!

    Test musics:
    Jazz at the Pawnshop (FLAC)
    Eva Cassidy - Live at Blues Alley (FLAC)
    Dee Dee Bridgewater - Live at Yoshi’s (FLAC)
    Filippa Giordano - Passioni (FLAC)
    Rebecca Pidgeon - The Raven (FLAC)
    The Doors - Riders on the Storm (FLAC)
    James Carter - Chasin’ the Gypsy (FLAC)
    Metallica - Nothing Else Matters (FLAC)
    Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio - Midnight Sugar (FLAC)
      raoultrifan likes this.
  2. Dobrescu George
    Trouble Maker - Burson PlayMate Basic DAC/AMP Revi
    Written by Dobrescu George
    Published Jul 1, 2019
    Pros - + Lots of Power
    + Can be integrated in a PC build, and it doesn't get very hot
    + Warm, liquid midrange that will appeal to those looking for a musical mid
    + Linear bass
    + Full metallic build quality
    + Versatile if you take the time to replace the OP-AMPs
    Cons - - Not the same signature as the original burson Play Basic, very different tuning.
    - Soundstage is intimate this time around, which doesn't work well for all music styles, for example classical
    - The Basic version does not include a remote
    Trouble Maker - Burson PlayMate Basic DAC/AMP Review


    With Class A power Amplifier, Multiple OP-AMP options, along with a sleek design, and a ton of driving power, Burson Playmate priced at 400 USD sure will be interesting to review, especially when comparing it to the original Burson Play, and to other DAC/AMPs like Feliks Echo, and FiiO Q5.


    Burson surely rings a bell as a company, as they've been very loved and appreciated by music lovers for a good few years now. They are known for designing excellent products, with amazing price / performance ratios, and Burson is also known for having designed products that withstood the test of time, as many of their products still keep their value, even years after their initial release. I actually have many friends who own a Burson Product and who've been really pleased by their build quality and reliability, not to mention the excellent service Burson provides with their products. 5 years of warranty for all Burson Products are the cherry on the cake when you consider the very pocket-friendly price they have.

    It shold be noted that I have no affiliation with Burson. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Burson or anyone else. I'd like to thank Burson Audio for providing the sample for the review. This review reflects my personal experience with Burson PlayMate. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Burson PlayMate find their next music companion.

    About me



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







    I love the fact that Burson redesigned their package to a new version, that now includes more accessories, but which also comes in a cooler overall package than the original Play did.

    You can find pretty much everything you'd need in the package, including the Power Adapter, cables to connect it in your PC build, and a USB cable to use the PlayMate as an external DAC AMP.

    Overall, it is an excellent device in terms of package.

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


    Build Quality/Aesthetics/UI/Firmware

    The build quality of the Play Mate is very comparable to the build quality of the original Burson Play. I invite you to take a look at my review of the original Burson Play, to get more details about how that one was like.

    Burson PlayMate is a fully metallic device, very well made and assembled together. The circuit board is clean and everything was designed responsibly, with a lot of good choices indicating a device that will last the test of time.


    On the outside, PlayMate has the same volume wheel as the original Burson Play, although PlayMate has a slightly better display. There is a USB Type-C on the front of PlayMate now, and the main Headphone Output is a 6.3mm jack. There is a 3.5mm Microphone input jack, which will come in really handy if you'll purchase your Burson PlayMate to be a part of a desktop computer build.

    The Basic version, the one I am reviewing, does not come with a remote, but as far as I understand, more expensive versions do come with a remote, and you can always purchase the remote from Burson.

    The unit gets hot while plugged in, but less so than the original Burson Play, actually now being easier to recommend it for a full desktop PC build. This being said, it is still pretty warm for me to recommend it freely to use in a computer build. On the other hand, it is just fine to use as a desktop DAC/AMP, even in a very hot environment.

    As far as the digital input options go, there is a USB Type-A input, which you can use together with the cable included in the package. There is also an optical cable input, and there are two options for the power input of Burson Play, one being the power adapter that comes in the package, and the other one, if you'd want to device to use it in a computer build, you can connect Burson Play to your computer's power supply via a MOLEX power connector.


    There is also an On/Off switch on the back, which you should remember to have turned on, if you will be placing Burson PlayMate in your computer build, and the best part, there are two RCA outputs at the back of PlayMate, which you can connect either directly to your amplifiers via cables, but Burson also includes a little slot card to attach PlayMate in your computer, and have the RCA outputs at the back.

    If you want to replace the OP-AMPs, the unit is very easy to take apart, and the exchange operation is quick and simple, although my unit did not come with any additional OP-AMPs, so I only took photos of how it looks in the original (Basic) configuration.





    While using PlayMate, I have noticed that the DAC output part is very clean and crisp, and that it doesn't have any inherent issues. On Windows it works flawlessly, and so it does on Android, the overall unit is built like a Tank, and except for the fact that it gets a bit warm during usage, there is very little to complain about.

    Sound Quality

    Now this part is quite complicated, because I am going to agree with what other reviewers have been saying about PlayMate, but I have a slightly different view about things.


    The sound, for me, is not necessarily an improvement over the original Burson Play Basic, because I really enjoyed the quick bass of the original Burson Play, but I also liked the cold and somewhat digital sound of it, as it was very revealing and had a lot of punch. Now, the PlayMate is clearly made to sound more friendly, the bass is still just as quick, although it has a bit less punchy, while the midrange is nowhere near as cold as the original, this time the midrange being more liquid and more intimate, with the treble, although as well expressed, this time more muted and less sparkly. A pretty strange combination at first, but if combined with the right headphones or speakers, truly something that is amazing.

    Starting with the bass, the bass is as quick as all Burson Bass tends to be. There is a smidgen less punch and impact than it was with the Burson Play Basic, but now the bass seems to have even better resolution. Bassheads won't be fans of this presentation, but those who appreciate a quick percussion, and a pretty revealing DAC/AMP that can keep up with Death and Black Metal, will surely appreciate the PlayMate.

    Next is the midrange, which changed a lot from the original Burson Play Basic. With the original Play, the midrange was somewhat digital, but extremely wide sounding and revealing, but now, with the PlayMate, the midrange is much more liquid and organic, but not quite as revealing, and more intimate, changing some of the things that made me fall in love with the Burson Play, not necessarily for something worse, but for something pretty different. It almost feels like some of the Vivid OP-AMPs magic that was on the original Burson Play when I installed them was imbued to this new PlayMate. There is a certain way you could describe the sound as being effortless, and flowing from each musical note to the next with the PlayMate.

    The treble is a mixed bag, somehow, it manages to be somewhat muted, not exactly as sparkly or as airy as the original Play, but it still is pretty bright. When most people call the PlayMate cold, they are referring to the way it portrays the relative amount of treble to the relative amount of bass, as it has a bit more treble than it has bass, but with the way the treble is presented, I agree that it is zero sibilant and zero harsh, it is a pretty tame treble, but it has a good amount of it, especially when you counter it to the neutral bass of Burson PlayMate.

    Desktop Usage

    PlayMate is very well designed to be used as a desktop DAC/AMP.

    Starting with the build quality, it is made like a tank, it sits nicely on your desk, has enough weight to not slide away, and the rubber feet also helps with its stability. Both the USB cable and the Power adapter are long enough, to be practical, although the RCA cables are not long enough to be practical, unless PlayMate is sitting on top of your Amplifier.


    The RCA cables included in the package are so short, because they were intended to be used inside a PC build, where you don't want to choke the space inside with cables, and you don't want to struggle with cable management either, but for desktop usage, as in, using PlayMate as a standalone desktop DAC/AMP, the RCA cables included in the package are too short to be truly practical.

    The front display is bright and visible even in direct sunlight, which is a major plus, and all jacks are of good quality.

    The fact that the unit gets pretty warm during usage, due to its pretty beefy Class-A Headphone Amplifier means that you're not very likely to use it stacked above other devices.

    Overall, it is pretty excellent to be used as a standalone DAC/AMP, although you will require aftermarket RCA cables, as well as space to sit it next to a separate amplifier rather than stacked on top of it.


    The main devices I chosen for the comparisons part of this review are Burson Play, Feliks Echo and FiiO Q5.


    Burson PlayMate vs FiiO Q5 (AM03A) - Here is where the fun begins, because, although Q5 is a portable DAC/AMP, it just happens that it has a similar price to the PlayMate. Overall, there would be quite a lot to talk about in terms of size and usage differences, but I think that the point here is the sound. Starting with the driving power, Burson PlayMate has quite a bit more driving power than Q5, but Q5 does a much better job in driving IEMs, as it has a lower output impedance and presents lower hiss with sensitive IEMs. The actual signature is also different, and with headphones that are easy to drive, or that present a normal challenge for most DAC/AMPs, Q5 tends to have more impact, to deliver a fuller low end, with a more sweet-like midrange, and with a more airy treble, with a larger soundstage. By comparison, PlayMate tends to sound more neutral in the bass, it tends to have a more liquid and slightly warmer midrange, and it tends to have less treble sparkle and bite, presenting music in a more intimate fashion. Depending on your headphone and IEM selection, and on whether you need your DAC/AMP to be portable, the two are quite different devices, but still comparable in terms of pricing.

    Burson PlayMate vs Burson Play - You probably have gathered a bit of information on how the two compare from the entire review, but a short recap on sound always helps, especially if you have a Burson Play and you're considering upgrading to the PlayMate. The overall design and build quality is pretty much the same, and the driving power is also pretty similar in actual usage. The signature though, is quite different. The original Burson Play has a more impactful presentation in the bass, but the PlayMate has a considerably warmer midrange, which is more liquid and sounds more analogue, as the original Play always was a pretty cold-sounding DAC/AMP with a more digital sound. The treble is actually quite different, and although both have good treble expression, the original Play extends more and is more sparkly, while the PlayMate feels like the treble, although has good quantity, is a bit muted and shifted towards a less airy presentation. The soundstage is wide on the original Play, and intimate on the PlayMate. If you're considering making an upgrade to Burson PlayMate, please note that the sound has been changed quite a bit and that you should really take your own tastes into account before upgrading to PlayMate, or at least, consider getting some of the aftermarket OP-AMPs which should really improve your experience quite a lot.

    Burson PlayMate vs Feliks Echo - Now, why not compare the Burson Play with something that is still pretty similar in price. Or even complementary, to some degree. Feliks Echo is an OTL Amplifier, which means that it pairs really well with high impedance headphones, but doesn't do so well with low impedance equipment. There are zOTL AMPs out there that defy this rule, but Feliks Echo is best used with a high impedance headphone. Now, about comparing the two, you need to take into account that for 500 USD, Feliks Echo is a standalone AMP and will require a separate DAC unit to work. Furthermore, Feliks Echo is a Tube AMP and has different space requirements than PlayMate. This being said, Feliks Echo has a considerably more organic, more natural and more sparkly sound, with a wider soundstage, deeper bass, more impact and with an even sweeter and more natural midrange. On the other hand, the same could be said if you were using PlayMate as the DAC to feed Feliks Echo, which is why I pointed earlier that they are good complementary pieces of equipment, in all fairness, Feliks Echo and PlayMate work quite well together, and I would very openly recommend you to consider this pairing for a very well-priced yet excellent-sounding desktop setup.


    Since Burson PlayMate has some hiss with sensitive IEMs, it is not recommended for usage with IEMs at all, being rather good with full sized headphones, as it also has enough power to drive them. In light of this, I have chosen HIFIMAN Arya, Sennheiser HD660S, and Beyerdynamic Amiron to pair PlayMate with.


    Burson PlayMate + HIFIMAN Arya - This one is rather sweet, because Arya has that huge soundstage, and can be driven really well from Burson PlayMate. In fact, Arya works so well with the PlayMate that I often just use this as a whole setup. The midrange is sweet and musical, the treble is well extended and airy, and the bass is deep yet controlled.

    Burson PlayMate + Sennheiser HD660S - Sennheiser HD660S is another headphone that works quite well with the PlayMate, but this time for entirely different reasons. This pairing has a more intimate soundstage, with the music being played much closer to you, this pairing has a very tame treble, which sounds smooth and non-fatiguing, and the bass is presented in a more neutral fashion, for those who don't want a lot of lows with their music.

    Burson PlayMate + Beyerdynamic Amiron - Amiron is another good pairing with the PlayMate, as Amiron usually had a slightly strong upper midrange, and the Amiron surely checks out nicely with the PlayMate, as the midrange is even sweeter and more musical, and PlayMate keeps the signature of Amiron pretty honest, with a more neutral bass, with a more liquid and musical midrange, and with a pretty tame treble.

    Value and Conclusion

    Reviewing Burson PlayMate has been really fun, but now it is time to judge it for its money. For sure, it is a pretty capable DAC/AMP, and especially since you can use it both as a standalone DAC, and as a high-quality headphone amplifier, but you need to keep in mind that you can't really use IEMs with it, unless you don't mind some hiss.


    In terms of build quality, it is the same as most Desktop-Class DAC/AMPs, pretty much a tank. There isn't any weak spot, and the main unit is heavy enough and has rubber feet, so it won't slide around your desk. The volume wheel is not the best out there, as if you turn it really fast, it may skip a bit, but for the asking price of PlayMate, it works well enough.

    The sound of PlayMate is different from the typical Burson Approach, this time the midrange being a touch less cold and digital, and more analogue and life-like, although the bass is still pretty typical of Burson, and so is the treble, although, this time even the treble is a touch smoother and more friendly towards a larger number of people, than the Burson Play Basic was. Pretty much, take everything Burson Play was, and make it even better, and you get PlayMate. This being said, the soundstage is more intimate, and the treble is more muted, along with the midrange being thicker and more liquid, making PlayMate quite different in tuning.


    Today, I replace the original Burson Play with the PlayMate in Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame, as the new version earns its place and makes a new name for Burson, as a different sound, yet still with an excellent price / performance quality.


    At the end of the day, if you're looking for a neutral-ish, but liquid sounding DAC/AMP, which is in Class A, and has a ton of power to drive even some of the hard-to-drive planar headphones out there, with a sleek design and lots of connectivity options, for a very pocket-friendly price, you should totally check out PlayMate, the new incarnation of the excellent budget-friendly DAC/AMPs from Burson.

    Product Link (no affiliate links)


    Full 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.

    Tidal Playlist


    Song List

    Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
    Eskimo Callboy - Frances
    Incubus - Summer Romance
    Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
    Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
    Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
    Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
    Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
    Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
    Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
    Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
    Doctor P - Bulletproof
    Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
    Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
    Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
    SOAD - Chop Suey
    Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
    Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
    Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
    Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
    Eminem - Rap God
    Stromae - Humain À L'eau
    Sonata Arctica - My Selene
    Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
    Metallica - Fuel
    Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
    Masa Works - Golden Japang
    REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
    Dope - Addiction
    Korn - Word Up!
    Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
    Fever The Ghost - Source
    Fall Out Boy - Immortals
    Green Day - Know The Enemy
    Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
    A static Lullaby - Toxic
    Royal Republic - Addictive
    Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
    We Came As Romans - My Love
    Skillet - What I Believe
    Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Yasuda Rei - Mirror
    Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
    Falling Up - Falling In Love
    Manafest - Retro Love
    Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
    Zomboy - Lights Out
    Muse - Resistance
    T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
    Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
    Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
    Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
    Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
    Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
    Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
    Saving Abel - Addicted
    Hollywood Undead - Levitate
    The Offspring - Special Delivery
    Escape The Fate - Smooth
    Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
    Dope - Rebel Yell
    Crazy Town - Butterfly
    Silverstein - My Heroine
    Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet

    I hope my review is helpful to you!


    Contact me!






  3. chickenmoon
    A Pleasing Encounter
    Written by chickenmoon
    Published Jun 23, 2019
    Pros - Good clean immersive warmish tonality
    Very low noise floor
    Excellent volume control
    The Emphasis filter
    Upgradeable Opamps
    Ability to integrate into a PC
    Cons - Not the most IEM friendly
    Not the most versatile in terms of I/O
    Some minor accessories missing
    Not for those who look for bright/analytical type of sound
    Burson Playmate Basic with MCPS Technology

    Introduction and Disclaimer

    I have been provided this device free of charge in exchange for an honest review and a mention of the MCPS technology. I'd like to thank Burson and Carlos, the Burson representative on Head-Fi for this opportunity. I am also thanking them for their great patience as this took much longer than expected.

    I will be reviewing the basic Playmate unit which is built around the SABRE32/ESS9038 DAC chip like its higher priced brethren and unlike them uses non-Burson and non-discrete NE5532 Opamps. I believe that aside from a remote included with higher priced models, the only difference between them are the (upgradeable ) Opamps.

    1 - front.jpg

    2 - back.jpg

    Please consult Burson Playmate page and PDF manual for more complete technical specs and cleaner close up pics of the device.

    Functionality, Accessories & Limitations

    This a DAC with Class A headphone amp output via jack on the front and Preamp Line Out via RCA on the back. It accepts USB (on front and back) and optical (TOSLINK) input. It has no audio input other than a microphone input on the front and thus cannot be used as an amplifier only. It also has no digital output and thus cannot be used as a digital transport.

    It can be used as a desktop unit or integrated in a PC by plugging it into a free optical drive bay. A number of accessories are included for both uses.

    You get a standalone switching power supply unit and a sturdy USB cable for use as a desktop unit.

    For PC integration, there is a PC backplate with two dual female RCA sockets, two nice single RCA cables and an USB cable plugable into a PC motherboard USB sockets. The unit has a molex socket on the back to get its power from the PC switching power supply unit via one of its molex plugs. No screws were included for securing the unit into the PC drive bay however.

    You also get an Allen key to be able to open the device and what appears to be perhaps a small fuse.

    3 - contents.jpg

    For use with a Windows PC or laptop, driver installation is required and, although it is not mentioned anywhere, the Windows 7 XMOS Driver on the Burson download page is suitable for easy and straightforward installation on Windows XP too where it works flawlessly.

    The volume control is digital with a very smooth endless scrolling wheel controlling it with excellent granularity and doubling as a mute button. I found this to be excellent as it lets you control the volume very precisely, it never goes too loud by just turning the wheel up a bit, there is a very nice amount of headroom here. It also won't suffer from channel unbalance and won't become noisy over time.

    There is only a single 6.35 mm jack socket for Headphone Out, there is no dedicated socket for IEM. Using IEMs will require an adapter (which isn't supplied) and consequently will not let IEMs benefit of the lowest possible output impedance which might be an issue with BA/Multi BAs/Hybrid setups. Also, since balanced output is all the (quite unwarranted IMO) craze lately, I should mention the this device has no balanced output of any kind.

    RCA Line Out on the back responds to volume control.

    The control panel offers a number of settings and is very easy to use. By pushing a small button next to the volume wheel, the latter switches to control panel navigation and editing mode. You can select Input and Output (only one of each can operate simultaneously), Headphones Gain mode (Low or High), choose between 7 FIRFilters (I personally can't hear a difference between them), choose between 4 DPLL (this is related to clock jitter) settings for both PCM and DSD (Hi, Mid, Low and Off) with ouput being shut if off is selected and probably best left at the default Hi settings. Finally there is an Emphasis setting (called De-Emphasis in the manual) which is On by default and affects the tonal balance of the output by quite significantly rolling off treble as can be seen in the screenshots below, this is a very, very nice option to have IMO.

    4 - Emphasis Off.png

    5 - Emphasis On.png

    Max Current Power Supply (MCPS) Technology

    Basically, as I understand it, this makes use of current provided by external switching power supply (the one supplied with the device or the PC PSU) and further processes this current to offset/eliminate issues switched current has but keep its efficiency advantage. Since I initially had some trouble understanding it I asked Carlos about it and got answered by Dennis, a Burson technician whose email I quote here near verbatim (just corrected some typos, grammar and punctuation hopefully without betraying meaning) as I found it very helpful and a good complement to what's written on Burson's MCPS page:


    Most listening has been done with an old XP laptop using foobar200 and the XMOS ASIO driver. Some listening has been done via optical (TOSLINK) input using my Questyle QP1R DAP as a digital transport. I don't think I can tell them apart. Apart from lossless noise and silent files I only used 16bit, 44.1kHz, 320kbps CBR MP3s with MaxNoClip ReplayGain applied on them from both devices. Finally, I only used a variety of IEMs, mostly single dynamics, no headphones have been used. The device had 500+ hours before I started doing some real listening.

    6 - setup.jpg

    QP1R Optical > Playmate Basic > Flares Gold + Sony MDR-EX1000


    First of all I am going to talk a bit about the noise floor. When everything is on but nothing is playing there is none I can hear/detect even pushing the High Gain volume to max. When playing a silent/empty wav file from the laptop I get some noise (which might well come from the laptop, not sure about that) but it is very low: for example, I use the Flares Pro IEM on High Gain at a volume, between 50 and 65 max depending on how loud the audio files are. When playing a silent file I can begin to hear a very faint noise at a volume of 70. This translates to all the other IEMs I tried to check out noise levels. It takes 5 to 10 clicks above the max volume I use them for playing audio for very faint noise to begin to show up when playing a silent/empty file. In all cases Emphasis filter was off which means no rolled off treble. I think this is very good.

    Overall I feel this is a very clean sounding device with a warmish, thickish, deep and full, pleasing and immersive tonality this even with Emphasis filter off and akin to good vintage solid state amplifiers such as the Sansui AU series I have but just tighter, cleaner and deeper. Unfortunately my Sansuis are out of service at the moment so I could not compare them directly. I have however plugged the Playmate Line Out into my Teac A-H500i integrated power amplifier who is supposed to have a reference neutral sound and whose headphone out is deemed excellent and I found it felt indeed more neutral than the Playmate but also much less clean and of similar tightness. On older testing between the Teac and the AU Sansuis I had found the latter to be warmer, less tight and less clean.

    One interesting thing is that while I knew the Sony MDR-EX1000 was very good I had never really understood its legendary TOTL status until I have listened it with the Playmate, not even with the Questyle QP1R which is (was?) my best/most technical device. Is it because the pairing with the Playmate is exceptionally good, the rolled off treble (Emphasis filter is on this time) compensating for the Sony's brightness/harshness leading to a more comfortable listening experience and ability to notice its strenghths more easily or is it because the Playmate sounds better than the Questyle DAP? Hard to say as I haven't done any direct comparisons but two things are sure here: 1) The EX1000 never struck me as so exceptionally good before and 2) The Emphasis filter is a really great feature which comes in extremely handy for pairing with brighter/harsher phones.

    I have mostly done comparisons with other gear I have so far to describe sound and this last cheeky little bit will be no different. I find the bass tighter and better on my lowly Audiotrack Prodigy Cube Black Edition. Not that it is bad on the Playmate Basic, I feel it's just better on the Cube than on the Playmate Basic (better than on the Questyle QP1R too). The secret here, because there is one, is that the Cube has a Burson V5i opamp in it and that's what gave it this better bass :wink:. So yeah, while very good and I'd even say excellent sounding overall there is clearly room for improvement in at least one area I know but probably more than that with upgrading them lowly NE5532 Opamps to discrete ones.


    Overall this has been a pleasure to use and listen to so far. Hopefully I have highlighted all the pros and cons of this device well enough to help someone make a decision, thanks for reading.

    Playmate: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/playmate/
    MCPS: https://www.bursonaudio.com/about-us/max-current-power-supply/
    PDF Manual: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1B8z1Zjj8rIeOzJ8A5WPfU-aw9JgmH1i2/view?usp=drive_web
      Onik and raoultrifan like this.
  4. Johnny Mac
    Burson Audio Playmate Realview.
    Written by Johnny Mac
    Published Jun 19, 2019
    Pros - Versatility(desktop to PC drive bay usage), OpAmp rollable, supports Mic usage, great hiss-free pairing solution, full-bodied sound, great imaging and separation performance
    Cons - Front USB-C output port does not work, remote control is optional and not by default, dust magnet
    The universe has a fun way of placing things were they ought to be and sometimes it places things differently than what we have planned for. I was never a PC guy but with PC master race peers, I eventually ended up with building my own rig. One of the tricky things that I found while building my rig was finding a decent if not great audiophile solution for my audio needs which eventually faded and disregarded as I moved on to another hobby.

    Did I say how the universe places things where they ought and not ought to be? Just when I wasn’t looking for an audiophile solution for my PC rig, the solution found me. This audiophile solution came all the way from Melbourne, Australia via Burson Audio. Burson Audio designs benchmark setting audio equipments and premium quality audio design building blocks for fellow audio enthusiasts and manufacturing partners. The Playmate unit that was used for this realview was sent over by Burson Audio in exchange for an honest take on their enhanced approached for the original Burson Audio Play and there were no monetary factors involved for the collaboration. You can check out these official Burson Audio website and the Playmate link itself for more details.

    The Burson Audio Playmate offers “the best of the best with the perfect union of the highest spec’d DAC chip and the best sounding OpAmps in the world” along with “5 Max current power supplies to ensure no coil, no bottleneck with maximum dynamics” as well as “Top-quality components”. That’s quite a lot to take in for just a short read so if you’ve got some time to spare, let’s check out our newest and freshest Playmate via Audio Realviews.

    Specifications and Packaging

    Burson Audio Playmate:
    • Input impedance: 38 KOhms
    • Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 – 35Khz
    • THD: <0.002%
    • Output impedance (Head Amp): <2 Ohm
    • Output impedance (Pre Out): 15 Ohm
    • Inputs: USB, Toslink
    • Outputs: RCA Pre-Amp / Headphone Jack
    • Impedance - Power (Headphone Jack)
      16 Ohm - 1.8W
      32 Ohm - 2W
      100 Ohm- 0.5W
      150 Ohm - 3W
      300 Ohm - 0.1W
    • DAC Specs: Channel Separation (132dB@1KHz, 121dB@20KHz)
    • XMOS USB Specs:
      Channel Separation: 132dB@1KHz, 121dB@20KHz
      Mobile OS: iOS & Android (OTG support)
      PCM & DXD Support: PCM 32Bits/768kHz
      Native DSD: Native DSD 64 / 128 / 256 / 512
      DSD over PCM: DoP64 / DoP128 / DoP256
    With the ESS9038Q2M 32-Bit Stereo Mobile Audio DAC being used on the Playmate, Burson Audio has kept up with the recent trend of using up-to-date components within their systems, it isn’t from SABRE’S PRO series though. It also makes use of the XMOS XU208 module for its digital interface which assures low jitter clock system and a much improved processing capacity of up to 1000 MIPS. The Burson Max Current Power Supply (MCPS) feature is still here which was also used on the earlier Play model, this assures that the Playmate to “shine from pitch-black background”. Burson Audio also made sure to source top-quality ELNA audio-grade capacitors, Dale military-grade resistors and Toshiba transistors to ensure the circuitry isn’t compromised.

    One of the notable features of the Burson Audio Playmate is its ability to be customized according to a user’s sound preference or if you are just the tinkerer type. The Playmate by default comes with the quad Texas Instruments NE5532D op amps and can be configured with Burson Audio’s very own op amps (V6 Vivid Dualx4-$649, V6 Classic Dualx4-$649, V6 Vivid Dualx2 and V6 Classicx2-$749 and the TOTL configuration of V6 Vivid or Classic dualx5 with the Burson Audio Bang-$1,248).
    The Burson Audio Playmate came in a glossy black box with red accents, typical trademark Burson Audio colors with the Playmate’s build outline and minor product descriptions and the reassuring 5-year warranty coverage. Inside this very box is a black hard foam cutout where the actual Burson Audio Playmate unit rests. There are 2 black rectangular boxes beside this setup which contains all the other accessories which are as follows:
    • 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter
    • Allen/Hex screwdriver
    • Power Supply
    • Inside computer plugs,
    • RCA-RCA stereo cable
    • Product Manual
    • Warranty Card
    Build quality and Interface
    The Playmate comes in either Noir (Black) or Everest (Silver) colors with anodized all-metal build. It is as edgy as can it be since Burson Audio has considered making the Playmate to be integrated in a computer case’s front drive bay panel with dimensions of 210mm x 145mm x 45mm and an approximate weight of 2kg. Despite being designed to fit in a desktop rig’s front drive bay panel, the Playmate still takes into account of it being a separate device from your rig by being an independent device that consumes precious horizontal desk space which is aided by 4 rubber feet on its bottom corners.

    Front Panel
    The Playmate’s front panel has a much standardized anodized finish that appears glossy and almost plastic-like, once again taking into account being integrated into a computer case’s front drive bay panel which are mostly acrylic glass to show off that “RGB is life”. Speaking of RGB, the Playmate’s lone display panel is a deep purple acrylic display (unconfirmed) which appears black on regular light with blue indicator backlights that displays all the Playmate’s settings (Volume, Input, Output and track playback format/bit rate). I would personally prefer white indicator backlights to match most desktop I/O backlights, small quirks but the Obsessive-compulsive in me kicked in.

    Featuring 3 jacks upfront, the 1st being the 6.5mm output jack at the left most side next to a dedicated Mic jack because gaming, remember? Burson Audio opted to include a type-C input jack which supports both Desktop and Mobile OS (Windows, Mac, Android and iOS) systems. 4 Allen/Hex screws are also present with great ease of access in case you would are open to customizing the Playmate’s stock Texas Instruments Operational Amplifier (OP AMP).

    Side Panels
    Gracing the Playmate’s side panel is a lone feature which is the 2 drive bay screw sockets on each side for the sole purpose of being mounted on that front drive bay panel.

    Back Panel
    The Playmate’s back panel still features 4 Allen/Hex screws for the body and 3 star screws for keeping both the RCA output jacks and the Optical output jack. The main power ON/OFF switch in the usual red plastic with white marking configuration is also present on the Playmate’s back along with the dual power jacks being either the usual barrel power jack with a dedicated power supply (100-240V AC) or the 12V DC 5A Molex connector for connecting it once mounted into a desktop’s drive bay panel. The combination of an Optical and USB 2.0 Type-B (768 kHz/32bit, Native DSD 64/128/256/512 and DoP64/128/256) for input makes the Playmate ideal for indeed both desktop or drive bay panel use.

    Connectivity and Stability
    The inclusion of the Mic input on the Burson Audio Playmate automatically places it into a unique category of being an audiophile-grade DAC/AMP/Pre-AMP device that doesn’t alienate gamers and the gaming/streaming community as a whole. It’s ironic though that I wasn’t able to personally try the Mic function as I wasn’t able to secure a dedicate Mic for the Playmate realview, another area of improvement for the page which I’d certainly address and update on this aspect of the Playmate once the Mic comes in.
    The USB 2.0 Type-B worked great and immaculate when connected to my MSI GF62 8RE laptop, no issues and connectivity hiccups. It also synced easily when using my type-C OTG cable to either my OnePlus 3T smartphone or with the xDuoo X10tii. The Optical input also worked great when paired to my trusty old PS3 Slim with no issues encountered. The USB-C input port is a whole different story though since it wasn't able to register any type of input from my use of various type-C OTG dedicated cables which worked on other type-C based devices that I have, Burson Audio needs to address this fast.

    Sound Quality
    Burson Audio's main line of business as far as I've seen and heard from peers are their audiophile components which gets integrated into another audio company's desired implementation making them a capable team-player oriented company right off the bat which suits the "Playmate" namesake for this specific Burson Audio model.

    With all that in mind, the Playmate with its ESS SABRE DAC and Texas Instruments OpAmp configuration allowed for a variety of digital filters which are as follows:
    • Brickwall - Maximum flat response (used for the realview)
    • CMFR - Corrected minimum phase fast roll off
    • Reserved - Reserved for future updates
    • AP Fast - default
    • MP Slow - Minimum phase slow roll off
    • MP Fast - Minimum phase fast roll off
    • LP Slow - Linear slow roll off
    • Lp Fast - Linear fast roll off
    The Playmate also featured a HI-LOW headphone output gain which worked great in driving IEMs (Tin HIFI T3, CustomArt FIBAE BLACK, Fearless Audio S6Rui, BGVP DM6), earbuds (Shozy BK Stardust and BGVP DX3s) and Headphones (Meze Audio 99 NEO, Sony CD900st and ATH-AD900x) alike which all came out hiss-free. The Playmate also worked seamlessly when paired with my MSI GF62-8RE laptop (Windows10 Home) with the Foobar2000 v1.4 churning out a mixed bag of 16/44, 24/48 FLAC files. I decided to roll with the Meze Audio 99 NEO for the whole realview as it was the one that I found to have complemented well with the Playmate. You can check my Meze Audio NEO realview here for a deeper insight into my own take for it but for an overall take, the 99 NEO's is a smooth sounding warm signature set of headphones.

    The Burson Audio Playmate sound is all about being full and engaging with its delivery. I made sure to get the hang of it by using it as my daily driver from binge watching my favorite TV shows to my gaming marathon sessions and in return, the Playmate gave me a clear sounding midrange that is both easy to discern and enjoy, male vocals had lower midrange extension for a full sounding experience while the upper midrange performance was detailed enough. The treble delivery was soft but with great clarity which is absent of sharp peaks and not the type to trigger your choice of IEM, earbud or headphone to be sibilant. I decided to take on the lows at the last part as it was the least notable from the Playmate's most distinct qualities but the one that makes both the midrange and highs to work great. The low frequency performance of the Playmate is done with care, it isn't overpowering but has ample and tight impact delivery and a non-congesting thump, a great foundation implementation for the succeeding frequencies.

    Who dares forget about soundstage, imaging and separation for an audio device which supposedly caters to the gaming community where this aspect is of paramount consideration? Burson Audio's Playmate surely does not, while the soundstage performance of the Playmate is aggressively dependent on the output medium of choice, be it a closed setup or open, the Playmate's imaging and separation was on point and distinct. Detailed and clarity is one of the Playmate's strengths.

    I'm yet to try OpAmp rolling and hopefully would delve into it sooner than later especially now that I have the xDuoo XD-05 and the Burson Audio Playmate to play with which are great OpAmp rolling companions.

    A non-functioning front USB-C output port (for now) plus not including the remote control by default for that lazy ass of mine, pardon me for I've been pampered by my Sony CAS-1 remote setup, are my biggest Playmate discomforts. Everything else about the Playmate is great, from its stellar imaging and separation performance to its full-bodied sound devoid of both hiss when switching gears and off timbre frequencies makes the Burson Audio Playmate a must have for the jack-of-all-master-of-none type of gamers and a solid must-consider DAC/AMP/PreAMP for audiophiles.
  5. Onik
    Written by Onik
    Published Jun 1, 2019
    Pros - Zero Hiss for any High-End Headphones I tried so far. Super Calm, Relaxing and Organic Sound. Opamp rolling option. Sexy Looking inside Design. Easy to mount inside Tower PC Drive Bay. Perfect for Gaming/Movies/Music. Something NEW!
    Cons - Do not shine out of the box, need to wait for burn-in process to complete. Small front Display(not a major issue).User interface could be much better. Too Technical to use the front UI settings for Casual music listeners. Front USB-F doesn't work with my android phones(hoping for an update).


    Music Files: High Resolution Audio Files, Flac 16bit/24bit.


    I used the Rear Usb or USB-B Port and connected it to my Gaming System, Motherboard used for this review was Asus Maximus VII Formula and sometimes with my dell e7250.

    After months later I decided to write this review for the new CLASS-A Designed BURSON PLAYMATE HEADPHONES AMPLIFIER/PREAMP which is a successor to the BURSON PLAY.

    This playmate was sent to me from BURSON Audio for Review purposes.

    In this review I’ll only talk about my own personal impression/opinion about this DAC mainly sound quality and how it compares to my class D headphones Amplifiers and they are SB X7 and Xduo Xd0-5(portable) and not goanna go into technical details because it’s easy to find it on head-fi or on bursons own website.

    Inside Impressions:
    The Basic Look just like Burson Play but different design. Now for the signal chain Burson engineers decided not to use anymore SINGLE OPAMPS but instead using x2 Duals for LP STAGE and HEADPHONE OUTPUT STAGE and x2Duals for I/V STAGE.

    Having this for the First time I was really Happy and excited because I never tried PURE CLASS A DESIGNED AMP before.

    As far as I know that Class A designed Amp sounds superior compare to Class D.

    But I never had a chance to try because I always thought that they gonna sound the same but I was wrong.

    I found that playmate is one of the quietest/calmest/blackish Headphone Amp I ever tried for the first time in my life.

    Out of the box with Beyerdynamic T1 and with standard op amps (NE5532) set this amp was sounding like nothing but music is playing with complete BLACK Background (zero hiss).

    With default op amps everything was so smooth and music playing so nicely that I wasn’t able complain about anything but still felt like something was missing and that was clean "treble" but still it sounded warm and enjoyable but with a bit of muddiness.

    After few days later I decided to roll some opamps in it.

    Even though I had BURSON V6 Vivids I decided not to use them first because I knew their sound signature so I decided to use SPARKOS SS3602 for this mate.

    Sound Quality After upgrading op amps with SS3602:
    After few hours of listening I heard changes in SQ with my T1. The "treble" was there just like it should be and "vocals" became even more presence but was lacking smoothness. Nothing to complain about the bass cause didn’t hear any significant difference after upgrading to SS3602 but I wasn’t unhappy because the opamps were brand new and needed more burn-in time.

    After 2 weeks later:
    I heard more dynamics in sound and more details in sound the "treble" had more weight and with "Beyerdynamic T1" it felt like liquid dropping to my ears.

    "Bass" had some extension but still wasn’t really surprised.

    With T1 I felt like this headphone don’t really care about "vocal" but more with what’s been playing mainly instruments.

    So I switched to HD650 and felt like the Vocal was forward but not to your face and calmer and everything else became less brighter but warmer.

    With SS3602 sound was clean but was missing sweetness so I decided to roll op amps and again and this time I went for Burson V6 Vivids .

    Sound Quality After upgrading op amps with V6 VIVIDS:

    After installing 4 V6 Vivids Dual op amps I felt like sound became less brighter/cleaner but warmer and darker with my T1.

    The reason for that probably was because 2 of my vivids dual opamps were brand new so I gave some times for the new op amps to settle down or burn-in for few days inside Mr play mate system.

    After few hours later with V6 Vivids:
    NO nothing really changed the muddiness was still there. And I wasn’t really disappointed because I tried V6 Vivids before for my SB ZXR and it took almost a month to sound them better.

    After few weeks later:
    IMG_20190602_213135 (1).jpg

    Felt like the sound had more emotions and the "sound stage" became even bigger than before treble became softer and cleaner.

    "Bass" Yes this is why I love Vivids so much more because this op amps makes the sounds enjoyable for longer listening while giving the sweetness to the bass. I can listen all day music without having any fatigue while having Vivids in my amps.

    "Vocal" had more lively and sweet vibe to the music especially when it comes to female voice nothing was harsh which I felt with SS3602 sometimes.

    I think everything sounded smooth and deeply with emotion like music was revived again from the death.

    I also felt like that with V6 Vivids there is a bit of coloration in music but that is what helping me to enjoy the music for longer listen. But this might not be good thing for people who just want to listen super flat/neutral based sound without feeling exciting but to listen what exactly was recorded.

    Another thing I noticed is that Vivids Sounds a bit Faster than SS3602(maybe I am wrong) but gives more excitement to the music.

    Sound Quality After upgrading op amps with V6 CLASSIC:


    After receiving the 4 samples of burson classic duals from Burson Audio I decided to try them without mixing with any other op amps on the new burson PlayMate headphone amp.

    After a day or two the V6 classic sounded pure Analog to me.

    Instruments sounded a bit dried and less fuller than Vivids but vocal sounded clean but not too musical like vivids.

    Soundstage was more or less same like vivids yes it was huge.

    Instrument separation felt same but bit more revealing than complete Vivids mod and I also heard more micro details with Classic.

    Even though playmate is not a revealing headphone amp the V6 classic still did it's job.

    After few weeks of trying V6 classic I had a feeling that this op amps are especially made for music producers who needs to hear everything.

    I don't know what on bursons website says about this op amps but after trying them on playmate I can say that they have flat and neutral sound signature and less musical than vivids but this opinion is only valid for PlayMate(complete V6 Classic).

    Sound Quality After doing V6 mod(Everest):

    I felt like instruments had bit more depth and sounded fuller than Complete Classic mod.

    Bass sounded original and deep also had bit more extension.

    Treble had sweetness and didn't sound flat and harsh.

    Vocal sounded warm and smooth and felt someone actually singing.

    Soundstage didn't change but the micro details felt like more revealing and well presented like they are part of the song and not hidden details.

    Everything felt truly Analog and Musical and Airy with this mod I think I couldn't find anything to complain about this mod.

    Now Lets talk about why I like this Amp more than my Class D amps:

    Lets talk about Sound Blaster X7, ZXR and xduoo xd05.I had these Amps and Sound Card for more than a year and I was and I am still happy with it’s sound signature because they do the job right.

    But After I tried Mr Play Mate Pure Class A amp I found something new, Which is it does not excite you in your face like my "Class D Amps" but slowly to your heart by having a "Calm" and "Colorful" sound with full of "Emotion".

    Sound is something that is really Personal and Difficult to explain in words for me but I tried my best to explain it by writing in this review.

    More About Play Mate:
    IMG_20190602_213216 (2).jpg
    After more than a month of use this DAC/AMP (with V6 vivids) I started to understand it’s sound signature and I think I can call it “Warmish” and “Airy” with less “Meat” flavour(less bassy) but with clean liquid and healthy flavour and also with lot of "Vitamins" than any other commercial headphone amps (cheaper amps) and it helps me to cool down while I am listening to music and also let me breath!

    In my opinion Play Mate rocks with mostly with “Beyerdynamic” High end Heaphones like T1,DT1770 pro(which I only tried) than “Sennheiser” high end Headphones like HD600,HD650 and HD800/s.

    The Sennheiser high end Headphones mostly will be suitable for Tube Amps than solid state amps. How I know this? Well when I switched from Little Dot MKII to PLAY MATE I found HD650 had less “dynamic” less “air” and also less clarity sometimes felt “sweetless” and instrument had less chance to breath easily. The only thing I liked about PM+HD600/650 is “Vocal” it was more presence and a bit forward than my other headphones.

    I don’t know anything about Hd800/s because I don’t have it. But once I have it i'll probably write another review about it.

    But with PM+T1 everything sounded flawless! I enjoyed everything with this combo! It sounded so perfect that I have nothing to complain about it!

    With T1 everything felt “calm” and “relaxed” than any other high-end headphones I ever tried so far. This is the only headphone I tried mostly with Mr Play Mate.I would recommend everyone to buy T1 if they have this amp.

    High: is like clean liquid with no harshness! Guitar tones and Cymbals had warm taste and didn’t sound too bright to my ears. There is some weighty feelings to it especially with Beyerdynamic Headphones.

    Low: super balanced! Especially with Burson V6 Vivids the bass had more demands and sounded more accurate than any other op amps.

    Mids: it’s just perfect! with T1 vocal is not too forward like HD600/650 and super smooth. Female vocal felt really sweet and more enjoyable!

    Everyhing felt so well "methodized" and felt so damn"organic" and found no way to tell that I do not like this and that bla bla bla.....

    Bugs and Issues:
    First thing I have noticed with this play mate is that the front "small display" keeps "flickering" but only where it says "PCM" and I found the "front size" too small to read and need to get too close to the display to read it correctly.

    The main issue I had and having now is to get the "Front Usb-F "working. I tried with few android phones but none of them recognize/support play mate as a Usb DAC, I had a feeling that it might work after a firmware update so I went to check on burson website for an update and followed the steps from this page: https://www.bursonaudio.com/burson-playmate-swing-firmware-upgrade/ and so I installed the latest firmware that was released on 15/05/2019. but unfortunately this latest firmware didn't fix the problem my android phone/pc still didn't recognize mr play mate while using Usb Audio Player Pro.

    I hope Burson Audio will soon bring a solution to this issues with another firmware update or make special app that will support the front USB type C port.

    I also found that the "Emphasis" option is totally unnecessary for this smart DAC, and I didn’t find anything useful when I turned it on only heard rolled off "Treble". I could be really happy to know if burson just remove this option from the setting menu with a firmware update.

    Overall I can say that this is a big improvement DAC over Burson Play and Burson really did an excellent job to bring something new to this generation. With their smart audio engineering they invented something that can surprise you with nothing but with beautiful sound that touches your soul.

    Having the option to roll op amps is something that really helps you to realise how much fun you can have by playing with different sound signature.

    It’s a device not only made for listening music but also made for casual or hardcore gamers like me. This is a must have DAC/AMP if you enjoy FPS games like FAR CRY 5, the footsteps, guns fire, destruction, Dialogues, water all other Effects in the game sounded breathtaking and genuine.

    If only the Burn-in times for the new op amps were not long then it could surprise me out of the box but It still did after few weeks/months later.

    Even though it had some Input issues with Android Smart Devices I gave it 5 because It worked flawlessly with my Windows Gaming System and with my dell e7250.

    Many thanks to Mr Charles for giving me this opportunity to Review this Smart DAC/Amp called play? No now its called PLAY MATE! Many thanks to him for giving me the time to send this beautiful product from Melbourne, Australia(I will visit someday).
    This was my review for now, Thank You for reading........
  6. DarKu
    Burson Playmate review
    Written by DarKu
    Published Mar 23, 2019
    Pros - Great tonal balance across FR
    - Great flow and easiness
    - Good kick and impact
    - Awesome headphone amp section
    - Good depth and a wide soundstage
    - Awesome features & lots of improvements
    - Best price to performance ratio tested in a DAC/Amp category
    Cons - Slight muddiness on treble
    - Not the cleanest treble response
    Burson forges are running hot these past days. The fire just settled down around the Play, Fun and Bang, all released not too long ago, that I still consider them fresh products. In my opinion Play was an amazing all-in-one DAC and headphone amp punching way above its league. However, nothing is perfect and Play had its quirks that I mentioned in my Play review.

    Play never really shined with sensitive IEMs, background noise and hum plagued it for all multi-BA IEM users, lack of a gain switch was a real pain and made it almost unusable with IEMs. Not to mention the already dated ES9018 DAC chip and did I mention that it had only one digital input? Common Burson, you can do better than that.

    A big surprise came about one month ago when I was greeted with 2 announcements from Burson: a much-needed dedicated DAC – called Swing, that should be a perfect partner for the Fun, and a brand-new product called Playmate, that seems to be replacing the Play.

    Burson promises to grant all our wishes with this one, so let’s take a closer look, shall we?


    Build Quality

    Fit and finish is quite good. Playmate is being offered in a black anodized aluminum case - called Noir or in a raw aluminum case called Everest. I have the noir version; anodized version will likely resist few accidental drops or scratches.

    Device itself is pretty small and lightweight, at about 1.5kg and having just 210mm x 145mm x 45mm in size its very easy to integrate into tight spaces and small offices.

    The aluminum case works as a giant heatsink so it gets warm at touch after about 20 min of run time, its warm but never hot since the amplification stage doesn’t dissipate as much power and heat compared to an integrated amp for example.


    Inputs and Outputs

    There are two digital inputs on the back, more exactly an USB type-B, an optical input and on the front, there is a second USB input - Type-C in case your smartphone supports OTG external devices. On the back Playmate can be powered by the external PSU or by your PC PSU (via the 4 pin molex connector), there’s an On/Off switch and a pre-amp output, at about 83 volume Playmate will output around 2 – 2.1 V Rms in case you want to use it as a dedicated DAC.

    On the front plate there’s one 1/4” (6.5mm) headphone output, one 1/8” (3.5mm) mic input, an LCD screen, a digitally controlled volume potentiometer and the menu button.


    Under the hood

    Playmate is again an all-in-one solution not only for audiophiles, but also for the gamers in you.

    It has a quite small footprint, as the Play, it can be integrated inside your desktop PC in place of a 5.25” drive bay. You have two options when it comes to powering up the Playmate: using its external SMPS power supply or using a molex connector from your PC power supply. Do note that in case you are powering it with your PC PSU, Playmate will drain 12V and up to 5A of power (roughly 60W at full power), you’ll need a powerful PC PSU, so keep that in mind.

    I don’t have a drive bay on my desktop Aurora 7 so I used it as an external device, which I sincerely recommend you doing the same, not because you’ll stress your PC PSU too much, but mostly because you will rule out all electromagnetic fields and interferences inside your PC case. Noise free is the only way to go if you serious about your final result.

    Probably one of the most notable changes is the upgraded DAC chip, the veteran ES9018 was used by Burson since Conductor V1 (2012!) until Burson Play (2018!) was replaced by a much newer and much more impressive ES9038 DAC chip. Unfortunately, it is not the PRO version, ES9038Q2M is a mobile version of the famous ES9038PRO. Both are currently benchmarks in terms of commercial made (non-custom) DAC chips around the globe.


    On the removable USB card, a powerful USB transporter can the spotted: XMOS XU-208 – I’ve seen this particular chip in much more expensive designs, even my own 1800 USD Matrix X-Sabre Pro is using it, which I find interesting. I didn’t have any hiccups, weird noises, or any interferences using the Playmate via USB, so that is a very good sign in my book.

    It is a pleasure to spot the best capacitors in the business, Elna Silmic audio grade caps are literally everywhere, they are most probably used at PSU or noise filtering, since none of them are in the signal path!

    Toshiba discrete transistors can also be spotted, Dale military grade transistors…what can I say, Burson didn’t waste a dime designing this interesting piece of audio gear.



    As the Play and Fun before it, Playmate is using a Burson made Max Current Power Supply. This proprietary MCPS overcomes the issues of both transformer based linear power supplies and conventional switching power supplies. These MCPS are tuned to work in Class-A for that intoxicating black as night background.

    Playmate has four rollable op-amp sockets, I’m having the basic version with four NE5532 dual op-amps, all those four can be changed to your liking, Burson is also offering their own V6 Classic and V6 Vivid flavors. The most pimped-up Playmate is roughly twice the price of the basic version. Want the best? Smash that piggy bank for it!

    I’m really glad Burson opted for an LCD screen on the front panel, it not only shows your volume levels, but also your selected output (headphone out or pre-amp out) and your digital stream (PCD or DSD and bitrate). Pushing the small button on the far right enters the menu where lots of setting can be accessed.

    Now, I’d like to call out the biggest improvement in terms of ease of use and accessibility Burson made to make it much better.

    1. In that menu you can select 3 digital inputs (YES, 3 – compared to just 1 on the Play), you have your USB type B on the back, USB Type-C on the front panel – in case you want to connect your smartphone via OTG and an optical input – it is God sent, really! You can connect your receiver, your home console, anything you want.
    2. Selectable Gain! On the low gain my IEMs worked like a charm, no noises, no hum, no nothing. Why Play didn’t have this? We’ll never know.
    3. You can select your output: headphone output or pre-amp output. Not a must have setting for me, but what the heck, it’s there and it works.
    4. Selectable digital filters. ESS Technologies implemented on the hardware level few digital filters in their upper range DACs - in case you want to have different sound flavors. Burson was kind enough to implement them in their Playmate for us to play with…I will not list all of them, but I will say that there is a slight sound difference between them, I prefer LP Fast by a small margin and left it as it is for the rest of our tests.
    5. DPLL for DSD and for PCM data streams, the higher this setting is – the higher the jitter rejection will be, it stays on High in the default setting.
    6. Emphasis – this is the only setting I wish Burson never implemented. Nothing is wrong by putting it there, however on default “ON” position, Playmate will cut the treble response by 5dB at 10 kHz and around 8dB at 20 kHz! That is way too much. I know Burson loves that bass and midrange presence a lot, but cutting that treble by 5db can be too much at times. Be warned, this setting Is enabled by default, I recommend switching it off immediately.
    All these settings were missing on Play, so thumbs-up for team Burson for keeping their word and implementing all those must-have settings that will make our life easier.

    Let’s get to the most interesting part, shall we?


    Sound Impressions

    I. Big Improvements

    First and foremost I would like to mention key aspects where I feel Playmate was much improved compared to Play in terms of usability and sound performance.

    1. Playmate can now be used with IEMs - a thing that was almost impossible with the Play.

    Playmate has a very convenient gain setting in the OSD menu, putting it on low is a Godsend for every IEM user. You have a much wider volume gap to play with and there is no hum or noise whatsoever. Background noise is nowhere to be found and background seems to be black as night even with multi-driver balanced armatures.

    2. Playmate has lower output impedance.

    Headphone output impedance was lowered from 8 Ohms to just 2 Ohms or below. I am hearing much more control with my IEMs, bass is no longer flabby with long decays, it is faster and more precise. A lower impedance output improved almost everything, transient response is first on the list and I am happy to hear a clearer image overall compared to Play.

    3. Playmate is offering more power for higher impedance headphones.

    With your typical low impedance headphones, the difference is negligible between the two. However, for 100 Ohm or higher impedance headphones, Playmate will be offering more juice. I could drive a pair of very inefficient 200 Ohm Audeze LCD-4 with both of them, however with Playmate I have a little bit more headroom and dynamics. More power and dynamics for the same price? Pretty please, I’m all for it.

    There are also many smaller improvements that I would like to mention separately.


    II. Improvements (without the Big):

    Moving on from the old and trusty ES9018 DAC chip to a higher performance ES9038Q2M resulted in serious changes in the overall sound performance.

    I always felt that ES9019 is a pretty good chip, but very hard to implement the right way. There are multiple designs where I felt it sounded bright and even fake. That is exactly what I don’t want to hear in my room: Fake midrange and hot treble. To some degree Conductor V1 (the one with the ES9018 inside) was like that.

    ES9038 is completely another story, a merrier one. I never heard an ES9038 based design that had fake midrange or very hot treble and that is good thing.

    You can screw up an ES9018 based design very easily, but you cannot with an ES9038 inside, it is just much more stable, has a better jitter rejection and doesn’t need as much power filtering (how ES9018 needed).

    In my opinion there is a very clear difference in the overall sound performance from Play to Playmate. Playmate sounds even more natural, has a (much) better flow, everything just comes easily towards the listener.

    Playmate is the complete opposite of digitus! ES9038 directly impacted the linearity of Playmate since it no longer has a very linear frequency response; it is more on the warmer side of things. Not by much, but there is no denying the warmness I am hearing.

    Think of it like a very high-performance tube-based design, if this makes any sense to you. Playmate has still a very solid-state sound, but it also has some flow that you rarely hear on any SS (solid state) designs.

    Playmate has a great midrange presence. I am starting with midrange because I feel this is the best part where I think Playmate really shines.

    String based instruments have a very mood lifting zing to them, the texture of those notes appears natural and real to me. It was a pure joy listening to any instrument-based recordings.

    Voices have slightly longer decays, that make you appreciate those cords vibrations just a little bit more.

    Headphones that are lacking in midrange presence will partner great with this Playmate. Even my Sennheiser HD660S that are good but not great in the midrange department shined on Playmate, every point where HD660S lacked was cured by the Playmate, this was a great pairing.

    The overall sub-bass and bass performance is very similar to the one on the Play, and that is a good thing.

    Playmate has a good sub-bass performance, with the right headphones (Quad ERA-1) I am hearing rumbling deep bass that almost shakes my head. Playing Invisible Sun by The Prodigy at the 00:40 mark a very low 20 Hz note can be heard only on select headphones, sources and amplifiers. Playmate passed the test pretty easily.

    On other test tracks by Infected Mushroom I’ve heard multiple bass layers that are always welcomed.

    There is an elevation between mid and upper bass, from 80 up to 200 Hz there is a clear emphasis in this area so almost all modern recordings will have a slight bloom. Throw any EDM, Hip-Hop or electronica and Playmate will just shine.

    Treble performance is good but not excellent. Unfortunately, the bite I was hearing on Play is not so obvious anymore. Playmate is calmer in this area and upper leading edges cannot be found on Playmate. That is one of the very few things that bothered me a bit.

    The second least impressive aspect is that transient response was also affected. By comparison Play sounds a bit faster and hits harder (only on high impedance headphones!)

    It’s noticeable especially on cymbals and double drums where Play rendered them just fine, but on Playmate there is a bit of muddiness (or mushiness) as it is not keeping up with double drums.

    These are literally the only two things that bothered me when I was evaluating the Playmate.

    Do note, I have the Play and Playmate in stock forms, maybe V6 upgraded ones will sound different.

    Soundstage size is medium to wide, with Quad ERA-1 and HD660S it sounds wider than Play and on the same level with Fun, I appreciated the wide stage on few classical pieces.

    Depth is also good and pretty much in a higher tier league comparing to other devices in the same price range (Matrix Mini-I Pro 2, Gilmore Lite mk2).


    Well, as you can see my whole review became a big comparison between the Play and Playmate so it doesn’t make any sense to compare the two anymore from this point on. Bottom line Playmate is much better, go for it instead.


    Burson Playmate VS Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2

    Playmate costs 400 USD and Gilmore Lite goes for 500 USD so there’s that, Gilmore Lite also doesn’t have a DAC section, so I call it a fair comparison.

    I connected the Gilmore Lite to the Playmate pre-amp output and set the volume at 83 for a 2.1 V output.

    First of all, it seems that Playmate has A LOT more power and will drive literally everything, if it drives my LCD-4, then it drives anything you want. Gilmore Lite starts clipping at around 90% volume, sadly it can’t drive my LCD-4.

    Playmate has a warmer sound signature that stays on the safer side on things, you can hook it up with a wider range of headphones.

    Gilmore Lite is basically a wire with gain, it almost disappears from your audio chain, if you don’t like your headphones, Gilmore Lite will make them even worse. On the other side, Gilmore Lite will sound truer to life and to the recording, it is truly a reference single ended headphone amp. It is so linear that most of the time you will hear your source and your headphones and not a coloration induced by the amp.

    Gilmore Lite also has a faster transient response, it’s always nimble and light on feet, for faster music Gilmore wins most of the times.

    Now, in terms of tonal balance and overall enjoyment levels I would say Playmate is better and a smile will appear more often with it. Gilmore Lite can be boring sometimes, especially if the listening music is also boring and un-engaging.

    For Gilmore Lite you will need a separate DAC box, so keep that in mind.

    There is no point in comparing the Playmate with a Matrix Mini-I Pro 2 since I think the later one can’t properly drive full-sized headphones and doesn’t have a real and well-designed headphone output.



    All my requests that I urged Burson to make with their Play and many other requests were carefully listened. This is how you are listening to the community and make a logical move, well done team Burson.

    I think at this very moment Playmate doesn’t have a real competitor that can drive literally every headphone you throw at it, offer multiple digital inputs, selectable filters or many other features.

    For a simple desktop solution used to play music, recording or gaming Burson Playmate seems to be my top pick for 2019. It was very impressive with all my headphones and IEMs.

    • Great tonal balance across FR
    • Great flow and easiness
    • Good kick and impact
    • Awesome headphone amp section
    • Good depth and a wide soundstage
    • Awesome features & lots of improvements
    • Best price to performance ratio tested in a DAC/Amp category
    • Slight muddiness on treble
    • Not the cleanest treble response
    Associated Equipment
    • Headphones: Audeze LCD-4, Quad ERA-1, Sennheiser HD660S, Momentum 2, FiiO FA7, FH5
    • DAC: Matrix X-Sabre Pro with X-SPDIF 2, Matrix Mini-I Pro 2, Burson Play, Burson Playmate
    • Headphone Amps: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2, Burson Play, Burson Playmate
    • Speakers: KEF LS50W
    • Cables: QED Reference, Burson Cable+ PRO, Audioquest & Kimber interconnects
      Kommando likes this.
    1. Onik
      You said in your review that you can connect your smartphone on the usb-F but I tried my brand new Razer Phone 2 with it and this phone don’t recognise play m8.
      Onik, May 7, 2019
  7. Mij-Van
    Upgraded Play called Playmate
    Written by Mij-Van
    Published Mar 3, 2019
    Pros - Big power,.
    Excellent dac with pro settings.
    Low and high gain.
    Hiss-free background.
    Cons - Tiny display.
    Steep price jump for higher versions.
    This is a review of the Playmate, Burson Audio's newest 2W PC Class A headphone amp / pre-amp / dac featuring ESS Sabre latest ES9038Q2M dac chip. The unit has been borrowed to me by a courtesy of a fellow HeadFier in exchange for an honest review.


    Some eighth months ago, I have reviewed the Play headphone amp/dac/pre-amp combo and was impressed by the Play's powerful and clean current delivery, punchy and well articulated bass and smooth mids. IMO the Play played particularly well with all the Senns I paired it with.
    While I liked the sound, I have noted some entries in the wish list, like:
    Switchable gain, separation of HP out and Pre-amp out, choice of filter settings, support of higher resolutions when using the software upsamling and less hiss with the sensitive earphones.
    Well, with the new Playmate, the Burson team has ticked all the boxes. Absolutely all users' wishes seemed to be considered and implemented now.


    The Playmate delivers 2W on 32Ohms and 100mW on 300Ohms, which is more than enough for any of the headphones I was testing it with. There is a switchable gain, low and high, and high gain doesn't go so loud as previously with the Play, enabling far better volume range. The output impedance seems to be much lower now, less than 2 Ohms. ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M offers a resolution of up to 768kHz / 32 bits and plays native DSD512.
    The basic version featuring 4 X NE5532 op-amps costs $399 and comes without a remote control.
    There are upgrade options with either full set of V6 Vivids or V6 Classics, including a remote which cost $649, and one de luxe version in Everest metallic finish with a mix of 2 Vivids and 2 Classics which goes even higher, it sells for $749. It seems to me like quite steep price jump going from $399 - 649 - 749, almost double for the top of the range version.
    The latest Sabre dac chip offers a myriad settings. Some of them like the DPLL I have no clue what are they doing. I have also found that the Playmate sounds much more neutral with the de-emphasis turned off. The most interesting setting is for sure the filter menu, where you can tailor the sound to your own preferences. After some switching back and forth, I have found my favorite sound setting using the MP Fast for the Redbook files and MP Slow for high resolution content.
    A welcome feature is also a switchable output between the headphone out and the line out, While with the Play I couldn't go higher than 50 with the full line out of 2V, with the Playmate it is about 80-82 for the same voltage.
    There is also a display on the front which is rather small, but at least it allows you to read the infos and change the settings accurately.


    How does it sound:
    While I was not quite happy with the steep price jump using the V6 op-amps, I was very happy to find out that the Playmate performs excellent in its basic setup. With the basic Play I always had a feeling that it could perform better using better op-amps, which finally it did, but with the Playmate I don't have such an urge for an upgrade. The Playmate sounds very natural, smooth and with far less sharp treble than the Play, which could be addressed to the latest dac chip. Everything has roundness and smoothness, the sound has some warmth without sounding muddy and the soundstage is quite respectable. Different filter settings do affect the soundstage and the transients, so there is a plenty potential to fine tune the sound.
    I have used a variety of double bass, stringed and plucked bass music from jazz, over Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to the orchestral music, especially the Mahler's symphonies and was quite impressed with the clean and articulate low and sub-bass delivery.
    The mids were very smooth, detailed and vibrant, you could feel the tiniest reverberations around each instrument. The treble is much smoother and less sharp than with the Play, especially when using the MP slow filter. Also the default AP filter sounded much more rounded and smooth compared to the mostly used LP fast, which was also used in the Play.

    Is it worth going from the Play to the Playmate? IMO, absolutely. There are not only cosmetic changes but substantial ones. I don't quite like very tiny display and very steep price jump for the upgraded versions, but I am very happy with the Basic Playmate, which could be the Mate to Play for many years to come. Actually at this point I feel like not giving it back easily, I would rather keep it for little longer. A year or two maybe :).

      DjBobby likes this.
  8. YoYo JoKeR
    Burson Playmate: Let's Play!
    Written by YoYo JoKeR
    Published Mar 1, 2019
    Pros - Strong Build & Design, Superb Class A amp, Transparent, Great Sabre DAC
    Cons - Lacks Balanced Setup, High end Headphone users might be disappointed. Stock NE5532 op-amp is definitely not great sounding.
    Burson Audio is a well-known Australian brand who make amp’s and DAC’s. I came to know about them through their amp – Soloist, which was quite popular back in the day. Burson have recently releasing many budget friendly desktop devices recently, and Playmate is their latest offering. I’m posting my initial impressions on the same.

    As always, I write my reviews to be understood by common public and not using overly technical terms. After all, Music should be enjoyable for all. After Burson Play which is an excellent value for the money amp/dac at 200$, ‘Playmate’ is a higher end ESS9038 Sabre powered 32bit/768khz DAC with a powerful class A headphone amplifier with 2 watts per channel power and is priced at 400$.


    I really like Burson’s design philosophy when it comes to making amp’s. They always try to leave maximum customization at consumer’s end. For example - we can easily take off the top lid to access the circuit board and play around with the op-amps. One major advantage Playmate has for Gamers or those into serious PC building – The playmate can be fitted into CPU chassis just like a DVD writer, and a power cable is included in the box for motherboard connection. Playmate includes other modern features like OTG support, digitalized volume control, a mini display unit with hardware menu. A microphone input is given in the front, useful for Gamers.

    Built quality is excellent. By build or design I don’t mean the simply smooth finished fancy CNC cases, but rather the components used or soldered the PCB quality, and the awesome power supply unit (PSU) quality, which has very low noise output – Burson calls it the MCPS and has 12V/5A rating.

    Full specs are as follows:

    Input impedance: 38 KOhms
    Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 – 35Khz
    THD: <0.002%
    Output impedance (Head Amp): <2 Ohm
    Output impedance (Pre Out): 15 Ohm
    Inputs: USB, Toslink
    Outputs: RCA Pre-Amp / Headphone Jack
    Power (Headphone Jack)
    16 Ohm - 1.8W
    32 Ohm - 2W
    100 Ohm- 0.5W
    150 Ohm - 3W
    300 Ohm - 0.1W

    DAC Spec
    Channel Separation: 132dB@1KHz, 121dB@20KHz
    Mobile OS: iOS & Android (OTG support)
    PCM & DXD Support: PCM 32Bits/768kHz
    Native DSD: Native DSD 64 / 128 / 256 / 512
    DSD over PCM: DoP64 / DoP128 / DoP256

    Playmate has a modern design, functional digital Menu option which includes

    1) High/Low Gain – Most studio Headphones need high gain setting to run comfortably

    2) Output: Headphones or Line – Line out is powerful 2vrms. Volume control enabled.

    3) Jitter Elimination – Offers 3 settings Low/Mid/High, with 'Low' offers lowest jitter but risking unlocking the DAC.

    4) Filters of ESS9038 – There are few hardware filters which slightly change the final sound signature.
    • BRICKWALL - Maximum flat response.
    • CMFR - Corrected minimum phase fast roll off.
    • RESERVED - Reserved for future updates.
    • AP FAST (default)
    • MP SLOW - Minimum phase slow roll off.
    • MP FAST - Minimum phase fast roll off.
    • LP SLOW - Linear slow roll off.
    • LP FAST - Linear fast roll off
    Details on frequency response can be read in ESS’s website and datasheet.

    As for the Sound Quality, I would say its very good, considering the price range of 400$. I remember few years ago when around that price, we could buy a modest mid-range amp/dac, but in recent months, I like the fact that manufacturers are getting more competitive and offer significantly more sound quality and features for the same given price range, with major improvements in semi-conductor design and implementation.


    Playmate ships with 4x NE5532 by default, which kind of sound okay-ish, but definitely need swapping out. I tried out the old V5 and V5i op-amps I had with me, and the change they bring about in the sound quality is amazing. I have a lovely pair of K812 and they sound detailed, airy and transparent. There is absolutely no audible noise or distortion. I feel my K812’s are very well driven by playmate, thanks to the powerful amping. An amplifier should amplify the sound signals and deliver them to headphones without loss in transparency or sound quality, and the playmate excels!


    The only thing I miss in the playmate would be the lack of balanced config, since it’s quite popular amongst audiophile and known that balanced setup offers better SQ, specifically the channel separation. There are quite few devices which offer balanced output around this price range. Overall, a very capable device, but I will try to unleash its full potential by getting my hands on the V6 op-amps. These are my initial impressions, will update on full review once I receive the V6 op-amps.
  9. raoultrifan
    High quality, great performer, all-rounder combo
    Written by raoultrifan
    Published Feb 27, 2019
    Pros - Powerful, detailed, clear, neutral and also warmish sound. Matches all the headphones with ease, no matter their impedance on sensitivity, including my 16 Ohms 103dB/mW IEMs.
    Cons - The beautiful and shiny aluminium case could get scratched, so some additional care is needed, especially if placing heavy headphones with metallic parts on top.

    Like usually, Burson Audio takes perfect care on ensuring the best protection for their audio device during the transportation. PLAYMATE was nicely packed into a double-case package, the inner case being filled with protective foam inside.

    The power supply and the accessories pack (6.3mm jack, torx screwdriver, inside computer plugs, RCA-RCA stereo cable) are packed into different smaller cases.

    I will not upload any package pics here, as other headfiers already did that, but simply put: a well-made sturdy package the doesn’t weights a lot.

    LOOK & FEEL:

    PLAYMATE looks very good, with it’s silver shiny aluminium case. I always felt that black anodised aluminium it’s the perfect “color” for my taste, but now I realised that PLAYMATE’s case looks better in shiny-silver than in black.

    The look, dimensions and weight are very similar with the former PLAY combo, just a new small button and the nice LCD on front, also the optical input on the backside.

    Design is simple and straight forward, attached pictures should be self-explaining. Just to realise its size and its beautiful look, I placed it on top of my Conductor Virtuoso 2+.




    I was able to use the default operating system drivers on Windows 10 and Mac OS Sierra/High Sierra/Mojave, but I've also used the driver provided by Burson as well. I had no issue with installing drivers and process went flawless. Actually, I had installed on the same computer PLAY, PLAYMATE and Conductor, all playing at the same time by using different drivers and audio players and not even a hiccup or latency were observed on none of the three DACs, no matter if I played from Wi-Fi network or from the local disc, ASIO, WASAPI or Kernel Streaming. This is a very good thing, because good drivers and operating stability is a very important aspect from an audio equipment.

    All type of files I had in my computers worked flawless: FLAC, ALAC, DSD64/128/256 (native decoding) and, of course, MP3. Not a hiccup or latency while seeking through songs, no matter I was using Burson ASIO, ASIO4ALL or WASAPI, under both Foobar and jRiver applications.

    The volume can be adjusted from the big rotary knob in 100 levels. Pressing it will also make PLAYMATE to mute. The rotary knob also alters RCA output volume, not just the headphones out, making PLAYMATE to work as a preamp.

    Input sources are selected from the main menu, by pressing the small rounded button from the front panel, on the right of the rotary knob. From the same button we can switch from RCA to Headphones output, but we can also change the digital filter and all other setting from the main menu, per the datasheet.

    The included 6.3mm to 3.5mm jack adapter will help in connecting all kind of non-balanced headphones and the RCA-RCA cable, of a very good quality, will connect the PLAYMATE combo to an external power or headphones amplifier. The front USB-C could be used to connect mobile devices, via dedicated OTG cables. The front 3.5mm jack can be used to connect an external microphone, so PLAYMATE can be actually used inside or outside your desktop computer’s case and having the same functionalities as a computer soundcard, just a better sound quality and a much more powerful built-in amplifier.

    In conjunction with Burson BANG and a low-noise computer power supply, PLAYMATE can make your desktop computer an all-in-one audiophile solution, a space saving solution as well. All you need to take care of is a really good power supply, some space left under the BANG for cooling and a very good “positive pressure” ventilation inside computer’s case.


    First of all I’d like to say that I’m thrilled when I see no opamps and no capacitors in signal path. Of course, I’m referring to PLAYMATE versions with solid-state “opamps” inside, like V5 or V6. When opamps are so cheap you need to have lot of guts to do that, and all of these just to get the best output sound. Also, lacking capacitors from signal path makes a frequency flat combo, with not even one “drop” of roll-off on the low-end (10-20 Hz bass)


    PLAYMATE share a similar USB transport card with PLAY: identical XMOS U208 chip, the USB hub chip powered from the internal low-noise (LT1085) +5V linear regulator and not from computer's USB port. I see two added LEDs that show us the state of the USB transport card: one LED lights up when connected to th USB port and the other LED when music starts playing. firmware can be future upgradable via the 3 volts 4Mb 25P40VP serial flash memory: M25P40 Serial Flash Embedded Memory - Micron Technology, Inc.


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

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

    The chip responsible with the digital to analogue decoding is ES9038C2M, that is getting the clock from the onboard 100 MHz oscillator. This is a high-performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter able to natively decode both PCM and DSD formats with a dynamic noise up to 129dB and a THD+N of -120dB. It has also a 32-bit digital volume control and an internal DSP with built-in "click-free" soft mute feature to suppress any possible popups when switching between PCM and DSD or vice-versa. The DAC chip is powered from a dedicated LT1085 low-dropout & low-noise linear regulator, then gets lowered again to +3.3V by the ultra low-noise CMOS linear regulators ADP150 made by Analog Devices (9uV RMS across 10 Hz to 100 KHz).

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


    PLAYMATE has powerful 65W/12V low-noise SMPS power adapter, similar in size with a laptop adapter. Even the power plug might be similar with one from a laptop’s power adapter, we should never try to connect a laptop adapter into the PLAYMATE, because of different voltages involved (laptops work around 19-22V)!

    There are five low-noise boost-regulators inside the PLAYMATE, dedicated for digital and analogue electronic circuits inside: XL6007 for the positive rails and TPS5430 for the negative rails. Separating digital and analogue power rails will lower the background noise, increase the dynamics and minimize interference from the digital parts, like volume control or relays coils. Also, worth mentioning that the DAC chip and the USB transport are powered from two dedicated linear low-noise regulators.


    Output stage is created around the powerful Toshiba 2SA1930/2SC5171 complementary bi-polar transistors, two pairs for each channel. The Class-A biasing is done via Toshiba 2SA1930/2SC5171 transistors, kept tight together to have same temperature. The output transistors are having an absolute maximum operating power of 20 Watts each for heatsink temperature lower than 25C, so driving headphones will be piece a cake for them, as long as we’re not speaking about headphones needing more than 2W/32 Ohms. All the output transistors are connected to the bottom aluminium base via normal screws, so heat dissipation from the output stage is done on the bottom. Output DC-voltage is very low and it’s backed-up by a dedicated protection circuit (UPC1237HA) on the output jack to protect the headphones if wrong op-amps are installed/swapped or in case of defects that could possible inject DC-voltage on outputs. However, keep in mind to not connect/disconnect your headphones when music is playing! This could cause damage to the inside amplifier (same applies to all stereo jack plugs).


    Polymer polarised long life and high quality Japanese ELNA capacitors and metalized Dale resistors can be seen across the board, to further minimize the output noise on signal path, but also to further lower power AC ripple.

    WP_20190227_08_01_00_Pro.jpg WP_20190227_08_01_30_Pro.jpg

    The internal gain switchable from the main menu via the rotary knob and the LCD panel can be adjusted in two positions: Low and High.

    On the Headphones-Out:
    - High-Gain has a max. output voltage of 10V RMS
    - Low-Gain the max. voltage will be 1.05V RMS

    For the RCA plugs:
    - High-Gain has an output of 5.3V RMS
    - Low-Gain the max. output voltage will be 530mV RMS

    Given the high RMS voltage for the High-Gain on the RCA plugs, this makes the PLAYMATE having an outstanding dynamic range for a non-balanced audio equipment, of course, if your amplifier is able to accept such a high input voltage of 5.3V RMS. Otherwise, please stick with a volume setting of 82% on the High-Gain, where the 2V RMS will be achieved (tested with 1KHz 0dB sinewave).

    Notice: If unsure of the max. input voltage of your external amplifier, just stick to a max. of 82% volume setting when connecting an external amplifier, just to be sure you'll not drive your amplifier into clipping or damage its input stage! Of course, when switching PLAYMATE from Pre-Out to Headphones-Output, ensure that no headphones are connected, because 82% volume setting will most likely damage your ears and headphones! So first lower the volume, then switch from Pre-Out to Headphones-Out, for your own safety.

    Headphones, but also the output stage transistors are protected by an output relay that gets activated in case of high-DC voltage (usually if a defect appears). If something gets defective inside, the relay will not let any DC-voltage passing onto the headphones.


    After few dozens of hours of burn-in (not a must, but still recommended) I did a listening test, because I want it to hear how the bass sounds on the new PLAYMATE, compared with PLAY and Conductor Virtuoso 2+ (CV2+). After all, these three audio devices are sharing a similar output stage done by eight identical powerful transistors, only differences consisting in higher voltage rails provided by a high-end PSU and a dedicated preamplifier with digital volume control inside the CV2+. With my A/B testing device, after a careful output power match done with my oscilloscope, it was difficult to impossible to find a clear winner between the three devices. I was alternating Hifiman HE-560 and Fostex T50RP-mk3 planars and tried to identify the best low-end impact and quality, but I couldn't; it was simply tie, because all the three were sounding the same to my ears, with great impact, lot of kick, exactly like a subwoofer does when it's added into a room.

    Beside my regular test tracks from Chesky and several other Jazz songs (with lot of micro-details inside), I had tested PLAYMATE for the bass and sub-bass with:

    Various Artists - Bar 25 - Greatest Hits

    Dirty Doering - I Would (Edit)
    Marcus Meinhardt - Endjoy
    Benno Blome, Rachele - Go Loose (M.In & Chriss Vogt Remix)
    Animal Trainer - Wunderland
    Philip Bader, Nico Stojan - Rootsa
    Niconé, Sascha Braemer - Thänk You (Radio Edit)

    For identifying the best soundstage from the three devices above I choose songs with more voices, women and male, to cover the midrange better, but also with instruments. When using Everest opamps (SS V6 Classic and vivid) instead of the default NE5532 I got an increase in soundstage and voices accuracy, it's like you got a step in front, more close to the stage. I find Everest opamp combination as being very good for classic music, jazz, rythm & blues. Chesky drums tests was sounding on Everest like placing the listener inside the recording room, with extreme accuracy and soundstage, all the details abounding into the ears. I assume the micro-details I hear are coming from the Vivid solid-state opamps that are acting as Low-Pass filter and headphones Voltage amplification inside the PLAYMATE. In micro-details and soundstage I an inclined to give my vote to PLAYMATE Everest, while PLAYMATE Basic is sounding about the same with PLAY and CV2+ on all songs tested.

    While Conductor Virtuoso has a lower THD figure, this was not actually felt by my ears during A/B tests, so most likely headphones THD was more important here than DAC/headamp's THD. Between the three combos, the best price/performance and price/features ratios are making PLAYMATE Basic a winner for IEM's or very sensitive headphones (high SPL dB/mW), and for high impedance headphones and planars PLAYMATE Everest is the winner, given the match lower price vs. the CV2+.

    Worth mentioning that PLAYMATE Basic combination has a lower background noise vs. Everest and if using very sensitive IEMs (16-20 Ohms, >100 dB/mW or >115dB/V) perhaps Basic might fit you better. Also, Everest is having a lower background noise then Conductor Virtuoso 2+, while PLAYMATE Basic has a lower background noise than PLAY. Hope that helps for those looking for a DAC/headamp combo for sensitive headphones.

    Bottom of line, soundstage is very good with a great separation of instruments and voices. Overall sound is non fatiguing, a tad on the warm side perhaps (per my liking) but completely neutral.

    Several digital filters are built-into the PLAYMATE DAC section (inside the ES9038 chip), to better accommodate our ears to the most pleasant sound we might like. How PLAYMATE measures, based on the different filters settings, could be read here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new...hangeable-opamps.894619/page-15#post-14782397.

    Headphones used for the listening test:
    - AKG K550
    - AKG K701
    - Beats Solo2
    - Beyerdynamic DT880 (600 Ohms)
    - FOSTEX T50RP-mk3
    - FOSTEX T60RP
    - Grado SR60i
    - Hifiman HE-560

    Opamps used for the above tests:
    - NE5532P
    - JRC2114D
    - LME49720
    - MUSES 01/02/8920/8820
    - SS V5
    - SS V6 Classic & Vivid


    Maximum temperature readings measured with IR thermometer (22-23C room temp.) after several hours of intensive listening:
    Top case: between 36-38 C
    Bottom case: 39-40 C
    Power supply: 33 C
    IV: 72C
    LPF/Gain: 69 C
    XMOS chip: 57 C
    PCB components: < 50C
    Power regulators: < 50C
    Output transistors: < 50C

    Linearity starts bending visible at 0.00002mV (around -94dBV), then at around 0.000012mV (around -98.5dBV) it starts bending enough to consider the above voltage as being the lowest one accurately represented by this audio equipment.


    Second and third harmonics are located somewhere around -100dB away from the fundamental, which makes them impossible to get listened by audience. Background noise is very low and makes it really hard to identify it with my sensitive 103dB/mW (121dB/V) 16 Ohms IEMs.

    THD seems the be around 0.00187% @1KHz, a bit lower than manufacturer states. Between 70Hz and 2KHz THD is somewhere around 0.002%, then increases slowly, depending on the frequency.


    Max. output voltage in 600 Ohms (before clipping)

    PLAYMATE noise (max. 59uV RMS)

    THD vs. Frequency


    Powerful, detailed, clear, neutral and also warmish sound.

    Matches all the headphones with ease, no matter their impedance on sensitivity. Even it’s such a powerful headphone amplifier, I can comfortable listen to very sensitive IEMs (16 Ohms, 103dB) with a volume level between 15-25%, because of the way the built-in digital volume operates, more like a logarithmic volume potentiometer, but without the channel imbalance on low-volume and without the scratchy noises that might occur during the time on the analogue potentiometers. Switching to HE-560 planar cans will make me increase the volume rotary knob somewhere between 50-70%, depending on the music and my mood.


    The beautiful and shiny aluminium case could get scratched, so some additional care is needed, especially if placing heavy headphones with metallic parts on top.

    The EVEREST opamps combination (Classics in I/V and Vivids in LPF/Amplifier-gain) might "sound" too expensive for some, but with these opamps I got the best soundscene possible, musicality and microdetails. However, LME49720 in I/V combined with NE5532 in LPF/Headamp-gain worked like a charm for me too, punchy powerful bass and lot of microdetails. Nevertheless, with 4 x NE5532 from the BASIC version, sound is perfectly neutral and without background noise.

    Note: The 8KHz spikes are generated by my measurement ADC (ASUS U7); sometimes it's simply there and I can't get rid of it, so the THD+N is also a bit higher due to this fact.
      Kommando and DjBobby like this.
  10. DjBobby
    Playmate of the Year
    Written by DjBobby
    Published Feb 10, 2019
    Pros - Great dac, with many adjustable settings.
    Powerful headphone class A headphone amp.
    Switchable hp out / pre-amp out.
    Wide concert hall soundstage.
    Cons - Fonts on the menu screen too small.
    Online manual very sparse.
    Playmate 3.jpg

    After reviewing previously the Play, Fun and Bang trilogy by the Burson Audio Company, they sent me their latest headphone amp / preamp / dac called Playmate, in exchange for an honest review. The Playmate is intended to be strongly upgraded version of the Play, where Burson listened and reacted to the wishes of the users community. I am actually impressed that the Burson ticked all the boxes on my Play's wish list, and implemented so many substantial modifications.

    I would rather skip the specs which you can read on Burson‘s website: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/playmate/

    Here are main changes, modifications and upgrades from Playmate‘s predecessor:

    - three digital inputs instead of one: two usb inputs on the front and back + optical
    - switchable headphone and preamp-out
    - two gain stages. There is a new low gain setting which is perfect for sensitive IEMs. The high gain is also much better implemented, the volume control being much better spread, not so steep as with the Play.
    - latest ESS Sabre dac chip ES9038q2m + newer XMOS usb controller offering the resolution of up to 32bits / 768kHz for PCM and 512 for native DSD.
    - adjustable dac settings, including choice of the filters, dpll settings and de-emphasis.
    - updated, dead silent power supply. Gone is the slight hissing and PSU noise with the sensitive headphones, now exchanged for dead black background.
    - lower output impedance.

    Playmate 2.jpg

    The Playmate has the same appearance as the Play, Fun and Bang, making it perfectly stackable with other Burson units on the desktop, although Burson‘s main idea was rather to fit it in the PC tower, making it interesting for the gamers. There is a microphone input included. The front plate is quite good looking, made from a brushed aluminium, the rest of the case is rather simple and industrial looking.

    The first and most welcome feature is the inclusion of a two gain stage. While the previous Play was rarely usable from the volume 50% and up having too high gain, now the Playmate allows you to use a much wider scale for the volume control. Also there is new a real preamp-out with much lower and better usable voltage. The Play had very high voltage, if you wanted to get a standard 2V over RCA you had to set the volume to only around 48 / 49 %. Now with the Playmate there is lower voltage on the preamp output which allows for going much higher up with the volume. Also the Play had the headphone amp and preamp running at the same time. That was not so ideal in case you wanted to use the Play as a pre-amp and forgetting to unplug your headphones. With the pre-amp and headphone out being separated and switchable, it got much safer.

    The standard version comes with 4 x NE5532 dual op-amps, wich can be upgraded by either Burson‘s V6 Vivids or V6 Classics, or a combination of both.
    For $399 for the basic version with NE5532s you get a 2W on 32Ohm and 100mW on 300Ohm of clean power, latest ESS dac chip and highly adjustable menu, but not the remote control. The remote control is included only with the higher versions of the Playmate.

    Playmate 1.jpg

    The manual can be downloaded on Burson‘s website and there comes my first criticism: it is too sparse and almost cryptic. Some more explanations about the effects of different settings for less experienced users would be much welcome.

    Here is what it reads:










    • Default selection marked with*

    All the menu settings appear on the new screen, where my second criticism point comes: it is on the small side. The volume level digits are the only easily readable on the screen, all other menu fonts much less so.

    While the experienced users will be very happy to tweak the sound to their preferences, some other might be lost with this cryptic code names, leaving the Playmate on default settings, which in my opinion would be a mistake.

    Let‘s start witht the choice of the filters, and how I understand them:

    • BRICKWALL - as the name says. One of the oldest filters around.
    • CMFR - Corrected minimum phase fast roll-off, also known as Hybrid.
    • RESERVED - ESS datasheet states only reserved, probably for the future firmware updates.
    • AP FAST (default) - Apodizing linear fast roll-off.
    • MP SLOW - Minimum phase slow roll-off.
    • MP FAST - Minimum phase fast roll-off.
    • LP SLOW - Linear slow roll-off.
    • LP FAST - Linear fast roll-off - standard filter used in most CD players.

    You can read more about single filter characteristics on pages 55 - 58. of the ES9038 data sheet: http://file2.dzsc.com/product/18/05/25/829029_170233543.pdf

    I wish the Burson would include few more lines explaining the filter charasteristics. In the meantime, according to my subjective listening tests, the default filter AP fast was definitely not my preferred filter, actually it was quite back on my list. You might find one or another filter sounding better, kudos to Burson for leaving this choice to the listener.

    The next setting called DPLL regulates different bandwidth limiting and jitter rejection ratio to dac locking capabilities. Although you can find more about it in the web, some more information about it in the manual would be more welcome. Generally, lower the DPLL higher the jitter rejection, but higher the risk of dac unlocking. Changing the DPLL setting might effect the sound quality.

    Now most intriguing setting is the de-emphasis and the question is why is default setting ON. There is small percentage of CDs mostly classical, from the earliest days of the CD production, which were recorded with the pre-emphasis. The pre-emphasis is comparable to the RIAA equalization, or earliest Dolby, where the recording were made with elevated treble to fight the background noise. During the playback de-emphasis would be applied, bringing the treble and the hiss down. While most CD players have automatic de-emphasis detection, the trouble is with the ripped FLACs, because the USB does not transmit the emphasis flag. The recordings made with the pre-emphasis would therefore sound horrible with aggressive treble if not de-emphasised. Some dacs offer automatic de-emphasis detection but only through the SPDIF, it doesn't work through the USB. For such recordings, the Playmate offers manual de-emphasis - assuming that you know if the recording is made with the pre-emphasis or not. If your recording sounds terrible, you might try the de-emphasis. But since over 90% of the recordings are made without the pre-emphasis, this setting IMO should be by default on OFF. If you leave this setting on default ON, you might end up with rolled-off treble and mudded sound.

    Burson 4.jpg

    How does the Playmate sound:

    I have tested the Playmate as a preamp connected to the Bang and also as a headphone amp using AKG K701, Senns HD650 and Beyers T90.

    The Playmate features huge soundstage with great instrument separation. Transparent, effortless, mellow and without any glare so common to other Sabre implementation. I am writing about the implementation and not about the dac chip itself, because I have heard horrible sounding ES9038s and spectacular sounding ES9038s, depending how well was it implemented. The treble is sparkling and fresh but not harsh, the mids are very expressive and the bass well defined and punchy. There is a slight sibilance when listened cold out of the box, which diminishes when the unit is properly warmed up. Listening to Dvorak Symphony „From the New World“ with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, there were so many micro-details that made me rediscovering the old recording over and over again. Listening to Martha Argerich playing Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, brought one of the most realistic piano sound I ever heard, with natural and warm decays. Listening to the album Blue Train by John Coltrane in hi-rez 24/192 made the band appear almost holographic in the room. The overall sound is on very neutral side.

    Burson 5.jpg

    The Playmate sounds a way above it's look. If packed in some fancy high-end looking box and with somewhat better user interface, it could easily sell for triple the price. I am pleasantly surprised how well the Burson techs listened and responded to the customers wishes.
    From my previous experience with the V6 op-amps I know there is even more potential there for an improvement, and my next step would be upgrading it with the V6 Classics.

    My main criticism is the sparse manual, something which could be easily corrected since it is offered online as pdf. The second point is the screen being too small, unless you have the eagle eyes. All this is easily forgotten once you get to the sound. Once carefully adjusted, the Playmate plays or rather sings in the high-end league.

    All criticism notwithstanding, it is still a great bargain. Another great one by Burson.
      Onik, Mij-Van and raoultrifan like this.


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