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Burson Audio Supreme Sound Opamp V5i

  1. mbyrnes
    V5i full swap for Creative Sound Blaster X7
    Written by mbyrnes
    Published Jul 20, 2017
    Pros - Good Cost/performance
    Detailed Bass and Mids, vocals sound natural
    Cons - Highs seem rolled off compared to Sparkos SS3601 and SS3602 (Twice the cost of the V5i)
    Burson V5i op amp upgrade for Creative Sound Blaster X7

    Link to the Bursonaudio.com site for the V5i

    I was contacted by Charles from Supreme Sound (Burson Audio), provided (2) single op amps and (2) double op amps, for my honest opinion of their product.

    What is it:The Burson V5i is a hybrid op amp. It has an integrated chip, which is what most op amps are in entirety, but also takes some parts, and separates them, adding some high end discrete components. This is to improve performance while maintaining a small form factor. This is how they can shrink down the V5 into the much smaller package, while retaining the sound signature of the full blown V5. I have not heard the regular V5, but this was their design principle in making the V5i. The V5i is much smaller and “should” be a drop in replacement for most op amps.

    What does it do: Operational Amplifiers main job is to amplify a signal, typically a voltage (can also be used to amplify current, voltage to current, or current to voltage). If you are interested in learning more about op amps, I found this website to be beneficial. The math may seem simple, but in real world components, achieving the best performance can be difficult. It is striking a balance between performance, size, cost, tradeoffs, etc. Each company will use a different design with certain design goals in mind.

    Why me: As many of you may already know, I purchased the complete X7 op amp swap, Sparkos Labs SS3601 and SS3602 op amps, shortly after I purchased the X7. My review is located in my signature. I have used those op amps for many months, and have been very happy with their performance. They greatly improved the sound quality of the X7, and I still believe that op amps are a great way to get more out of such a versatile DAC/Amp/VSS unit. Before that purchase, I did not believe that op amps could make that much of a difference. I have gladly changed my tune, and will continue to suggest op amp upgrades for equipment that can have them swapped. Most IC op amps seem to have to make sacrifices, and fully discrete is the best way to go (audio as the end goal of the op amp, as they have MANY different uses).

    Starting point: Upon receiving the Burson V5i op amps, they were burned in for roughly 150 hours, as Burson suggests 100 hour burn in period. Now I did listen and use the X7 normally during this burn in period. I did notice that as time went on, the V5i op amps did seem to change over time. When I first received them, I was not impressed with them. Coming from the Sparkos, they didn't seem as clear, and they weren't as efficient (volume dial needed to be turned up more for the same volume). I went back to gaming and watching movies, listening to music, but not analytically.

    Critical Listening post burn in: The V5i op amps do have some nice qualities. They produce clean and tight bass, a very musical mid range, but do seem rolled off in the highs compared to the Sparkos. Soundstage, instrument separation, and overall clarity are very good, much better than the stock op amps that come with the X7. These are a definite upgrade, and for $120 for the complete swap, not a terrible price to pay for a noticeable change in sound. The Sparkos, which I believe to be the best op amps available in a small form factor (they're also fully discrete), are double the cost at $240 for the complete swap.

    Setup/Equipment: I tested the Burson V5i op amps several different ways. I used just the X7 and it's amp, as many will be using the X7 in this way. I also used the RCA outs to connect my Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL 2, which has a much "blacker" background, and overall very good sound quality. The X7 was connected to my PC via USB, using Foobar2000 updated to the latest version. For Headphones, I used Hifiman HE-X V2, Fostex TH-X00 Ebony, Monoprice M1060, Beyerdynamic DT990 SE 250ohm. I also listened through my 2 channel setup, which consist of X7>MZ2>Marantz SR8500 AVR>Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand speakers.

    Overall Thoughts: I know the Sparkos very well, and they will remain my op amp of choice for the X7. The entire frequency response with the Sparkos is crystal clear and matches my headphones of choice, perfectly. At $240 though, you are pretty close to Modi Multibit, which you can use with the X7 through the optical out (and still use the Virtual Surround Sound (SBX). Even just switching out the Duals, which make a larger difference to sound quality, will set you back $160 before shipping for the Sparkos. The V5i, will be $80 for the Dual swap. That is a much easier amount to swallow, especially if you are trying to keep your setup simple with an all in one solution.

    The Sparkos require less power to output at the same spl level. I noticed this in my Sparkos review, that they played much louder than the stock op amps. The Sparkos during this review were usually at 11:00-11:30 on the MZ2. The Bursons to achieve the same volume, sat around 12:30-1:00 on the MZ2 volume dial. The Bursons are more efficient than the stock op amps, but do not match the Sparkos. Another thing I noticed is that the Bursons got HOT during use. I would say they were within the 60-80 degree Celsius operating range at all times. This could be due to the metal enclosure on the V5i, and there not being a case on the Sparkos. The bottom cover will NOT fit on the X7 with either the Sparkos or Bursons installed. IMO this is very minor and no big deal. Neither projects out from underneath, they are just a mm or two larger than the cover can manage.

    Without a direct comparison between the two, I really didn't notice the V5i as lacking. They sounded great when they were the only op amps in the X7 for a few months. Gaming, Movies, and Music all sounded great and I was happy. Ignorance can be bliss, and without swapping back and forth between the Sparkos and the Bursons, I grew to really enjoy the V5i op amps. One area where I think they can really help people, is with headphones that are V or U shaped where the highs can become fatiguing. The Bursons brought down the highs enough to make a few of my headphones more enjoyable for extended listening. Particularly my TH-X00 and DT990. The slight drop in highs really helped the DT990 for music, and they were still great for FPS gaming, with plenty of the detail that is needed to hear the sounds you do want to hear. The Bass and Mids were truly good, very comparable to the Sparkos, and I would have to nit pick to find any differences in these areas. I cannot change the op amps fast enough to get a true comparison of the differences in Bass and Mid range (hearing memory is extremely short!). Both excel in this area. My two main headphones are Planar (HEX and M1060), which both recess the highs naturally, and the Sparkos really help those headphones in this area. Headphones with an edginess to the highs, may sound better with the Bursons for music. I know for me, I preferred the DT990 with the V5i op amps.

    As you may know, the X7 does have a built in EQ, so you can change the sound however you want. All of my listening was completed with a flat EQ, and if you aren't against it, you can dial in the V5i op amps by bumping a few decibels here and there. I realize that some are COMPLETELY against EQ, so this review is with the V5i straight into the X7 without any help.

    Burson (critical listening) with comparisons to Sparkos:

    Led Zeppelin "Whole Lotta Love", FLAC rip from remastered CD. Very low background noise, Robert Plant's voice is extremely clear and natural sounding. Snare drum sounded impactful and decayed well. The Top Hat is where I noticed a difference between the Sparkos. It sounded slightly recessed, and not as clear as the Sparkos. Overall this song sounded great and natural.

    Live "White Discussion", FLAC rip from CD. This is one of my favorite songs to test all kinds of gear. When the band jams, it gets loud and congested with heavy guitar and drums, and they can overpower the rest of the instruments and singing. The V5i performed very well, where each instrument is clearly heard when listened for, and the overall sound was better than I expected. The guitar was not as clear on the V5i compared to the Sparkos, but without knowing this song as well as I do, this could be missed by many listeners. The V5i IMO do a very good job of keeping the impactful changes, with great bass and mid bass. I did not like this song with the stock op amps.

    Metallica "Master of Puppets", FLAC rip from CD. Alone the V5i do a very nice job on this song. Another song with a lot of things going on, and the only notable difference I could tell was the drums didn't sound as clear versus the Sparkos.

    The Who "Love Reign O'er Me", FLAC rip from CD. Love this song, the beginning with the rain and piano, is one of my favorite starts to a song ever. The Bursons did not disappoint. Everything was clear, impactful, and Roger Daltrey sounded very lifelike. The Sparkos are better, but it isn't as obvious on this track.

    Black Sabbath "War Pigs", FLAC rip from CD. Sounded great, another one of my favorite demo songs. I did notice a big difference in clarity of the symbol crashes and their decay. The Sparkos really show their muscle here, my notes on the Sparkos: "Symbols decay FOREVER". This really stuck out when the Sparkos were installed, and there was a noticeable difference when the V5i were installed. The symbol decay was still very good on the Bursons, but clearly not as good as the Sparkos. Everything else, like drums, guitar, vocals, all sounded very good.

    Arcade Fire "Reflektor", FLAC rip from CD. This is a bass heavy song and really the reason I chose it. There is some good percussion, male and female vocals, and a song I really like. The V5i sounded very clear with bass and vocals, but again lost to the Sparkos.

    The bass and mids performance of the Burson V5i was very good with all of my listening. Vocals sounded clear with both Male and Female voices. Really the one note that kept coming up, was a lack of clarity in the upper ranges. The highs seemed a few decibels down compared to the Sparkos, and finer details just weren't there against it's twice as expensive foe. The V5i did excel with everything else, and compared to stock, this is a very nice upgrade, at a price that I think is worth it. I would call the Burson V5i a "warm" sounding op amp compared to the Sparkos. This may be exactly what you are looking for, especially if you are trying to tame the highs of certain headphones.
  2. ostewart
    Opping Perfect
    Written by ostewart
    Published Jul 10, 2017
    Pros - Airy, wide soundstage, slightly warm
    Firstly I would like to thank Burson for sending me these op-amps for review, as always I will try to write and honest review. These received over 100hrs of burn-in as is suggested by many users.

    Gear Used:
    Topping D30 > A30 > German Maestro GMP8.35d / Dita Dream / Hifiman RE2000 and more.




    Op-Amp Rolling, Packaging and Build:
    First off I have done some op-amp rolling in the past with cmoy type amps, and believe op-amps make a small change in sound, and it can be for better or worse depending on the circuit and headphones being used.

    I recently got the Topping A30 which is a fantastic budget amp, and I wanted to see how good it could sound. Burson were really helpful, and the A30 needs the dual op-amps, as the stock ones are OPA2134, they are a drop in replacement, and the A30 has sockets in it for easy op-amp rolling.


    The V5i come in a small plastic box with the op-amps snugly in place in the foam inlay. They are very well protected.

    The V5i are well built, they are well put together and are slightly wider and taller than normal chip op-amps so they may not fit in all designs.



    Now as stated before I believe in small differences between op-amps, but putting this in was the biggest difference I have heard between op-amps.

    Instantly I was surprised at how the sound opened up compared to the slightly closed in sound of the OPA2134. The soundstage got more holographic and accurate, the bass also gained a little body and now digs deeper and has more realistic punch.

    There is more air around all instruments and overall just a more defined and realistic sound.
    Now this really was quite a big difference in sound from the OPA2134 and this little amp is now even better value.

    These will set you back around $70 which is quite a lot considering the amp is not a lot more, but op-amps are a key part of the circuitry and these brought some very welcome changes that enhanced my listening experience. To be honest I was shocked by how good they made the amp sound, so if you can afford them, depending on your amp, they can bring some welcome differences.

    Sound Perfection Rating: 8/10 (excellent upgrade in my amp, adds a small amount of warmth)

  3. golov17
    Burson for music lovers
    Written by golov17
    Published Jun 4, 2017
    Pros - Power, emotions, rich of obertones
    Cons - Nope
    I've tried different combos with my toys, and having spent enough time listening with Burson v5i Dual, I can safely recommend OPA for those of you who, like me, loves Muses02 .. you will not be disappointed .. for vocal music,I still prefer Muses02, but for other genres Burson is really impressive!Good job!Recommended.The taste of sound differences is an important component of emotional involvement for the music lover, and Burson fully gives me a full sense of it .. And it's worth it, thanks.
    FB_IMG_1496548979119.jpg FB_IMG_1496549028721.jpg P70604-085555-001.jpg P70603-192636-001.jpg P70531-180203-001-001.jpg P70527-192209-001.jpg
  4. Spider fan
    Imaging, Staging, Clarity and Detail Master
    Written by Spider fan
    Published Apr 19, 2017
    Pros - Airy and exciting, big full bass, nice vocals but really shines in imaging, staging, clarity and striking details
    Cons - Some people may find it fatiguing in some devices
    Work in Progress. 
    This is my mini-review of Burson Audio Supreme Sound V5i op amp.  I use it in two  devices.  First is my Matrix M-stage HPA-1 desktop amp using Tidal HiFi into a  Schiit Bifrost Uber.  The 2nd device I use it in is a portable Dap/amp the Walnut Hi-Fi V2.  My other higher priced opamps I have are the Sparkos SS3602 and the Muses 8820.  I have a handful of other inexpensive more commonly used opamps.
    I really enjoy the V5i.   It just raises the airiness, clarity and details to another level compared to my other opamps.    I never really got into home speakers but all my life I have been into car stero so Imaging and Staging has always been two of my main focuses in what I consider good sound.  Normally audio stuff never meets my hopes when I first listen.  My original plan was to install it in the Walnut which I had the Muses 8820 in and then let it burn-in the recommended 100 hours.  The V5i made my jaw drop when I stuck it in the walnut.   Width and depth of soundstage, I admit I am not good at making comparisons of but the the improvement in the imaging was kinda of shocking with the placement and air between instruments.   I dont hear that level of staging or imaging with my Sparkos or Muses opamps.   I am not saying the V5i is better than the Sparkos but I certainly enjoy the V5i more than the Muses.  The Sparkos and Muses both seem to me to lean more towards a smoother more organic presentation while the V5i seems a tad more digital with more clarity and with striking apparent detailing.   Actually, I think owning the V5i and Sparkos are a good combination.  My M-Stage, a warm amp, combined with my favorites: HD600s, VE Zen 2.0 Blacks, and Westone 4s which are all neutral to warm makes for a little of a tame presentation.  The V5i really adds some airiness, life and zest to those combinations.  If I decide to use one of my hotter and brighter items like my grados, my mojito earbuds or a few of my iems the Sparkos makes for better synergy.  I just leave the top unscrewed and I can change them out in like 2 minutes.
      peter123 likes this.
  5. newdoughboy
    Beautifully made, and the only alternative when size matters
    Written by newdoughboy
    Published Apr 17, 2017
    Pros - Small size, Good build quality, audiophile grade sound
    Cons - Pricey when compared to ICs, Doesn't sound as good as it's bigger brother V5
    Burson v5i in Cambridge 651p phono preamp
    Amplifier Stage and RIAA Stage
    In RIAA Stage,
    The v5i sounded very full in a right-in-your-face way. There is good detail.
    V5 lifted a veil, and brought the voice forward. Opens up the soundstage and takes it to a personal concert level.
    Simply put, if your system can fit the v5, use it. If not, then v5i for the next best thing. As you can see, I have the circuit board jacked up on it's base, and insulated with a piece of cardboard.
    V5 costs double that of v5i. In my opinion, well worth it.
    I will try to update later when it is in the Amplifier stage, and compare it to other opamps.
      activatorfly likes this.
  6. bzfrank
    Lifting the veil
    Written by bzfrank
    Published Apr 11, 2017
    Pros - transparency, details, neutrality, compatibility
    Cons - price, case size may still be too large for some tight packed portable devices
    This review focuses on portable devices, especially the Little Bear B4 Portable Vacuum & Valve tube headphone amplifier. I recently got my hand on a Burson v5i op amp and tried it in the B4. Executive Summary: Recommended!
    My test setup was using an iBasso DX90 as source, later changed it to a Shanling M1 and a Zishan DSD for DSD128 tests. My test songs (FLAC except the DSD) include the Driving Towards The Daylight (Joe  Bonamassa) album, Into the Electric Castle (Ayreon), Star One (Arjen Lucassen), Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Nightwish) and the DSD recording of Beethovens 5th (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Manfred Honeck, Reference Recordings). I used Music Maker TK13s IEMs, Shockwave III IEMs and Phonon SMB-02 monitors headphones. Disclosure: The v5i was provided by Burson audio for review. I certify that this review reflects my true thoughts about the v5i. I have no connections to Burson audio, beside receiving a test sample from them.
    I previously replaced the B4s stock op amp (TI NE5532) wih an OPA2107 and notice a significant improvement. The OPAs and especially the 2107 come with a likeable, but slightly 'laid back' sound signature.
    This changed completely when I plugged the v5i in the B4. The op amp transformed the B4 and opened up the signature, both in the areas of transparency and sound stage width. Details that previously were lost, appeared like a light was turned on. What I really like is that the v5i didn't make listing tiring, it just removed a veil that I previously didn't realize was there. Especially with the Shockwave, the wider sound stage is glorious. And at the same time it did not negatively impact on the 'tube' characteristics of the B4.
    As an op amp upgrade the v5i-D (for Dual) did work in anything I plugged it in. Its seems to be a quite uncritical op amp in regard to gain and voltage supply. It gets slightly warm during operation, but nothing to call home about, which makes it a good candidate for portable devices.
    In the Walnut V2 portable player the v5i works equally well. Please check out http://www.head-fi.org/t/828315/walnut-hi-fi-v2-wav-mp3-player-by-wt-screenless-budget-killer-combo-dap-amp/2580#post_13405139 for a detailed view.

    Sadly in the Zishan DSD I cannot try the v5i as its size (height) does not fit into the PCB sandwich. Its works (and sounds quite good) in a dry run but I cannot close the case, so I omitted the Zishan from my tests. That's also my main criticism, its still too large (for certain portable devices).
    Baseline: I can recommend the v5i for amp rolling of your portable device (if its fits in physically). Even a puny little cmoy will likely benefit from it.
  7. ls13coco
    Worthy upgrade for the Little Dot 1+
    Written by ls13coco
    Published Apr 3, 2017
    Pros - Details, transparency, cleanliness, soundstage, imaging
    Cons - Nothing I could find, maybe the fact that it isn't a whole new amp upgrade?
    23283267_10155937442988278_991168624_n.jpg Little Dot 1+ op-amp upgrade with the Burson V5i
    Gear used
    Creative Soundblaster X7 as DAC with 2x Sparkos SS3601 single op-amps, 2x Sparkos SS3602 dual op-amps, Hifiman HE400i, AKG K712 Pro, Fostex TH-x00 PH, Fidelio X2, Little Dot 1+ with Mullard M8100 tubes and of course the Burson V5i op-amp.

    The LD1+ was already using a different op-amp, the dual op-amp that I swapped out of the Creative X7 was being used which already made for a clear upgrade from stock. The X7 op-amp upgrade seemed to give the sound a more neutral signature, while also lowering the noise floor with the LD1+.
    Because of this, I wasn't expecting to have as noticable of an improvement with swapping in the Burson V5i, but I was happily mistaken.
    The differences aren't as large as swapping all for out of my X7, but they were immediate. The LD1+ is not by any means an expensive tube-amp (well, maybe to those who don't use these forums!) However, the sound didn't improve in one area - it was improved all around, while retaining the neutrality I noticed with the X7 op-amp upgrade.
    Details, transparency, cleanliness, soundstage, imaging, and a blacker background were all improvements I could notice on all of my headphones. Some more than others, such as the K712 Pro and HE400i seeing as these are harder to drive headphones I could only assume.
    The Fidelio X2 still had some background fuzz when the volumes were at pub-style band performance levels but this is a reasonably low impedance, easy to drive headphone.
    I'd also like to point out exactly what I mean by "cleanliness" because this was a very appreciated change.
    I like to EQ, some are are against this, I am not. For example: for the X2 or TH-x00 I will EQ in a little bit of mids, and I will EQ some low-end into all of my headphones.
    The LD1+ with the warm, buttery mullard M8100 tubes would become syrupy sounding while running high levels of bass (only as high as what the X7 as my amp would reproduce cleanly).
    Now with the V5i op-amp, the bass was no longer thick and syrupy sounding, so creds for this.
    Overall, this is an upgrade I could easily recommend if you are a owner of the Little Dot 1+ and want to go a little farther with your amp, without shelling out for a whole new tube amp.
    I have not used the V5 to compare, but the V5i having a smaller footprint is a positive in this case as closing the LD1+ with the backplate remains possible.
      jaco61 and zellous like this.
  8. uncola
    Adds the life back to music
    Written by uncola
    Published Mar 21, 2017
    Pros - Exciting and dynamic sound
    Cons - had to use 10db gain instead of 20db in my lehmann amp
    I was lent two trial v5i opamps to test out for my honest impressions and here they are:
    I used the v5i in my hattor preamp with speakers and with my lehmann headphone amp in a vinshine audio dac-r2r-ref dac/amp.
    Replacing the Burson V5 opamps with v5i in my opamp didn't yield much perceptible change, they share a sound signature so sounded extremely similar with the fully discrete V5 edging out the V5i in blackness of background.  
    Replacing the stock TI opa2134pa opamp with the v5i in my lehmann headphone amp yielded night and day dramatic differences.  The stock 2134pa has a super neutral and clinical sound, not emphasizing any particular aspect of the music and doing a good job of being a very low noise and distortion free baseline, probably making it good for pro audio applications.  When I installed the v5i I immediately noticed a change in sound signature in a different direction.  The v5i presents a more dynamic "fun" type of amplification.  Subjectively it has a W sound signature, being the opposite of boring neutrality yet not emphasizing a single frequency range.  It seems to emphasize treble, mids and bass to bring the music to you for a front row seat near the stage in a small club type experience.  The 2134 was more like listening to studio monitors while the band played on the other side of a glass window.  The change was definitely complementary to my HD800 headphones which while extremely detailed, especially in treble and soundstage, don't have the most impactful bass or mids.  
    TLDR summary:  major upgrade for any headphone amp!  close enough to the V5 that I'd just get v5i if they fit better
    Here's a pic of a v5 and v5i in my preamp to demonstrate their size difference
    equipment used to compare:  Vinshine Audio Dac-r2r-ref dac and lehmann type headphone amp  https://www.vinshineaudio.com/product-page/dac-r2r-ref
    Hattor Small Active Balanced Preamplifier http://hattor.com/
      snellemin likes this.
  9. raoultrifan
    A worthy upgrade for most opamp rollers out there
    Written by raoultrifan
    Published Nov 26, 2016
    Pros - Soundstage, clarity, pleasant tonality, quality, design, metallic shielded case
    Cons - Size, compatibility, max. voltage
    Thanks to Charles from BURSON I've done some tests with my ASUS Essence One MUSES BURSON MKii DAC by upgrading existing opamps with V5i received recently from BURSON (thank you BURSON for providing me the chance to make this test).
    - WASAPI was used instead of ASIO (don't trust ASIO for this test)
    Music used for the tests:
    - ATB
    - Kenny G.
    - Best of Chesky
    - Head-Fi And HDtracks
    - Ultimate Demo Disk
    Headphones used for the tests:
    - AKG K701
    - AKG K550
    - Beyerdynamic DT880/600ohms
    - Grado SR60i with L-cushion
    - Apple/Beats Solo2
    - When using 2 x V5i in Low Pass Filter and 2 x V5i in Voltage Amplification Stage (from headphone amplifier) difference was noticed from the very first second:
    1.   first impression was like volume is louder than before (which is not, measured three times with my scope and with RMS-multimeter)
    2.   stage is larger and layering is better
    3.   bass seems a bit more "rounded", with better definition, a good improvement for "bass shy" headphones (ATB bass and imaging can really shine with V5i opamps!)
    4.   Kenny G.'s saxophone stands out a bit more with V5i and layering is way better, same I can say about staging/imaging
    The V5i dual op-amps could be also used in output buffers too with great success; I couldn't find a real difference to talk about here, although it's been a small difference in sound tonality that can't explain it very well (nice pleasant warm sound).
    There was no overheating for V5i, actually when used in the output buffers and in the gain stage V5i were barely warm to touch. When used in low-pass filter stage the V5i were about the same temperature as by MUSES01 from the I/V stage are (a bit over 45C with case open).
    I've also attached some pictures to reflect that using V5i opamps in LPF, VAS and also in output buffers is not inducing any oscillations or odd harmonics (tough I don't have access to Audio Precision equipment, I've used a decent scope to test this). Screenshots where taken while using my PicoScope 2204A connected to MacBook Pro laptop with default probe connected to Essence One headphones output, -3dB test signals and volume button to about 10 o'clock.
    No oscillations up to 10 MHz bandwidth while 1 KHz signal applied
    20 Hz applied, 24 KHz bandwidth, no strange harmonics occurs
    1 KHz applied, 24 KHz bandwidth, no strange harmonics occurs
    20 KHz applied, 24 KHz bandwidth, no strange harmonics occurs
    Those V5i solid-state opamps are looking so beautiful!

    - Soundstage
    - Sound neutrality
    - Brings more details upfront
    - The outside metallic case acts like a EMI/RFI shield (for the SS V5 opamps you needed to purchase additional copper foils and ground it separately, but that's not the case for the V5i opamps)
    - Size is a bit bigger than a regular DIP8 opamp and may not fit everywhere.
    - It would be great for BURSON to create these opamps for devices having +/-18V on the rails. Right now V5i are designed with +/-16V in mind, but a native V5i able to be powered from +/-18 would be great if we could all have it in the future (like the older SS V4 that can be powered up to +/-20V).
    - May not be compatible with all devices out there, some people reported on Head-Fi some hiss/noise issues when used in voltage amplification stage. This happened to me with Matrix HPA-3B when using gain of +5dB, though when using +10dB or +20dB the V5i were shining and singing with great soundstage and lot of details. So, dropping one star because of that.
    Regards and happy modding, 
  10. gr8soundz
    A Sound Supreme (for it's size)
    Written by gr8soundz
    Published Nov 23, 2016
    Pros - Impressive sound, smaller and less expensive than other custom opamps
    Cons - May be addictive!

    Thanks to Charles at Burson Audio for the opportunity to try their latest V5i SS (Supreme Sound) opamps with my Asus Xonar Essence ST PCI sound card. I received the opamps in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am not affiliated with Burson Audio and my opinions are not necessarily theirs. My experience and conclusions may differ from those of other users.
    Too often, when I read reviews, some writers aren’t quite sure if they ‘qualify’ as an audiophile. As if there’s some unwritten path toward making the claim and that, before expressing their opinions, they must (for unknown reasons) firmly state whether they are or aren’t one.
    To me, being an audiophile simply means I’ve cared about audio quality long enough to have regularly done something about it. It doesn’t mean I have to be an audio engineer or understand (or be able to perfectly explain) everything about sound. Rather, I have more than an overnight insight into my own audible tastes and realize that others may not exactly enjoy what is flavorful to me. Also, how much you can spend and what’s in your collection isn’t the point (at least it shouldn’t be).
    MY AUDIOPHILE JOURNEY (the short version):
    Many years ago I started with an Aiwa ‘Super-Bass’ walkman. It was the only one I could afford with both a 3-band equalizer and Dolby (B) noise reduction. I always insisted on original cassettes or dubs made to metal type (CrO2) Maxell or TDK tapes.
    Next up were finally CDs, followed by MiniDiscs and (sadly) MP3s. I spent countless hours ripping CDs to variable bit rates in EAC just to fit more files on DAPs with miniscule storage. Moved on to WAVs but now use mostly FLAC after weeks of re-ripping my entire CD collection.
    Most recent is my current two (plus) year stint on Head-fi after quietly dabbling in HTPCs. 
    I started out listening to hip-hop, classic R&B, and accapella music but mostly listen to jazz and soul nowadays. I gravitate toward pianos, guitars, horn sections, and dynamic vocals. I prefer detailed, full-bodied, non-fatiguing sound and no longer consider myself a basshead (at least not since my Public Enemy years).
    Before Charles at Burson contacted me, I was already in the process of moving my Essence ST to a newer computer. The card being PCI limited new motherboard choices and I’d refused to buy an STX II just for the pcie connector. So I settled on my older i3 machine and eventually installed an audiophile Linux distro to pair with my Vali. Should be fun explaining to people I’m running Snakeoil-OS (inside a snail; see pic below) with an Essence card and a Schiit amp.
    No audiophile is ever fully content. Somewhere out there is a guy with an Orpheus II and MSB dac wondering what he’ll change next. Why swap opamps is like asking a racer why he wants his car to go another second a lap faster. Tweaks come with the territory. If you can get more out of equipment you already own why not? It’s certainly cheaper than a full upgrade.
    V5i Dual opamps; $39 each or two for $69. More info here: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/supreme-sound-opamp-v5i/
    The Bursons arrived nicely packaged inside plastic snap cases, each opamp secure within firm foam cut-outs. A nice touch after receiving some poorly packaged (bubble wrapped in an envelope) opamps from another manufacturer where the pins were bent.
    I began with a fresh install of the ST on my test bench to use for the entirety of this review. The volume was set to a comfortable level and remained there for after the swap. I listened mostly though my Oppo PM-3 direct to the card’s rear 6.3mm headphone out. The PM-3 are very neutral headphones and their closed, more isolated nature makes them great for these types of comparisons. It’s difficult to get a firm baseline due to how long it takes to properly swap opamps but I listened to the fully stock card for about an hour before the switch.

    test bench with dual-core AMD FM2 cpu with 8GB of RAM
    Oppo PM-3
    Sennheiser HD 598
    Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Gen.
    Windows 10 64-bit
    Foobar 2000 v1.3.10
    Fidelizer 7.4
    v1.80 low latency UNi Xonar drivers from maxedtech.com
    Foobar output set to ASIO, no EQ and DSP off
    Asus Essence ST headphone output set to High Gain in the Xonar Audio Center
    Seal - 7  (16/44 FLAC; a good recent Trevor Horn production)
    Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (Hi-Res 24/88 FLAC; an all-time classic)
    iFi Burn in Signal
    The Essence ST’s outputs use all three of it’s swappable, dual opamps. You can choose to replace only the two JRCs and/or the one TI for a mixture of customizations. I opted to swap all three and hear the maximum influence of the V5i-D on the card’s output.
    20161111_195919_crop_1000x500.jpg 20161111_200730_crop_1000x500.jpg
    The Bursons are quite a bit taller and wider than stock opamps. I didn’t measure them but specs show dimensions of 11x11x7.3mm (although I’ve seen actual measurements closer to 13mm wide; the metal caps appear to be pressed/punched from a die so that may explain any variances). Removing the card’s dual JRC 2114D opamps, they popped out of the ST more easily than I expected. The two V5i-D op-amps fit firmly and snuggly in their place with a millimeter to spare on most sides. Next, I replaced the lone TI LM4562NA. This time, however, the V5i-D was about a millimeter too wide to clear the surrounding J400 capacitors. With a gentle, outward flexing (not bending) of the capacitors, the last one fit tightly in place. Thankfully, the fully seated Bursons were no taller than even the largest caps rising up from the card’s pcb board. This allowed me to reinstall the (desired) EM shield without worry as there was enough clearance to ensure the metal caps don’t come in contact with it (don’t want anything to short out and possibly cause damage).
    IMG_20161123_004254-2124x1195.jpg 20161111_202200-2124x1195.jpg
    After the swap I played a test track to ensure everything worked. I had to reduce the volume roughly 1dB (according to Foobar’s meter which I’d been using) back to a comfortable level so the output may have been a bit louder with the V5i. I also had to increase ASIO latency by 10-20ms to get rid of some intermittent crackling/popping noises. The V5i can handle (and likely uses) more juice than stock opamps but I didn’t modify the card’s power section in any way. Although not required, Burson’s site does have instructions on how to this after burn-in for more stable power at extremes.
    Impressive. I could immediately hear how much wider the soundstage had become and how much cleaner the bass was. The PM-3 isn’t known for having a wide soundstage which made the change that much more apparent. Vocals and midrange sounded much the same except for a bit more extension on brighter instruments. Placement was also easier to discern due to the increased width. I had no issue with bass output prior to the swap but, on occasion with the stock opamps, bass heavy tracks could sound a bit overblown. I’ve gotten to know the ST’s mostly clear, neutral sound signature well and had come to expect those rare impacts. However, with the V5i installed, each low-end kick (no matter how deep) was audibly clearer. I had also read multiple impressions about the V5i saying they reduced bass compared to other opamps. Perhaps I was pre-biased into expecting this trend but I don’t agree. If well controlled and well extended bass means less compared to edgy, occasionally excessive bass then I’ll take the former. However, I doubt any of that will appease bassheads.
    I then proceeded to burn-in the new opamps for roughly 100 hours. By my ears, the changes were still as pronounced. With so many hours in between, it is difficult to say if any further improvements surfaced although the card’s output remained stable. However, I can't imagine going back to stock opamps after using the V5i. The extra soundstage and additional clarity are truly addictive.
    With the HD 598 changes were much the same. The wider soundstage was still noticeable but had less impact on an already wide, open back like the 598. However, being a bass light headphone, there was less overall impact on the low end than before.
    Next I tried my T1.2 on extra high gain out of the ST. With all three Bursons installed, the sound output was still superbly clear, wide, and stable. Not the most likely pairing but the Essence ST remained more than capable of driving the T1.2 with lots of volume to spare. Obviously a bit thin sounding but not fatiguing; a better combo than I expected.
    THE BAD:
    The only downside of this endeavor is having too many devices capable of using the V5i. With multiple cards and amps that are compatible, I don’t have nearly enough Bursons. Don’t know how I’ll be able to rip them from my ST nor decide which devices they’ll remain in. Had I not purchased those other opamps just days before Charles contacted me, I’d have enough funds to actually buy more of these little guys. Burson Audio have created what equates to little silver nuggets of audiophile crack that I now need more of! I’ve found myself rechecking the internals of every audio device I own to see how many and where I can fit them. (Maybe this is how they get us hooked by offering them for review?). For now I’ll have to wait, but will definitely get more of these.
    For a quick comparison, I also have a couple of Sparkos Labs SS3602 opamps. They are roughly twice the price and doubly wide as each Burson. A little taller too (either the emi shield stays off or spacers might work). To me (again, it is hard to directly compare these guys due to the time and variables involved in swapping), the Sparkos’ soundstage is a bit wider than the V5i, the level of bass isn’t as reduced, and the output level may be a touch stronger. However, the SS3062 isn’t as clean sounding as the V5i. Direct from a card’s headphone jack, those differences are more a matter of preference (especially depending on the headphones) but, going into an external amp, the cleaner output may have a greater impact (depending on the amp). Also, for smaller devices, the V5i may be the only choice (although they won't fit inside everything).
    Burson Audio also makes the original V5 which is among the tallest opamps I know of. The V5 are closer in price to the Sparkos but now, after becoming addicted to the smaller ‘i’ version, I’m more afraid than ever for my wallet should I get to try them.
    Overall, with the Burson V5i, the Essence ST maintains it's neutrality yet sounds even clearer, wider, and has more extension on both ends of the audible spectrum. The ST is a very capable card stock but, with the V5i installed, I once again felt I could listen for hours without the need for an amp. In the end, the V5i are among the smaller (easier to fit) and more affordable custom opamps available yet they perform impressively.
    20161121_000947-1195x21241.jpg 20161121_153710_crop_734x943.jpg
    The Asus ST (with V5i) in it's newest home.....
      peter123, snellemin and neog007 like this.
    1. tl13m
      Wow, nice case. What is it name?
      tl13m, Nov 23, 2016
    2. gr8soundz
      Thanks. Its a Lian-Li PC-U6.
      gr8soundz, Nov 23, 2016