Burson Audio Supreme Sound Opamp V6 Vivid and Classic

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Pros: A very noticeable improvement in sound.
Cons: Plastic casing adds bulk that can affect fitment in some gear.
So after quite an adventure with Canada Post due to COVID19 and the closure of my office where I had these shipped, I managed to get my hands on my Burson V6 Vivid OpAmp set for my Soundblaster AE-9 (2x Single and 2x Dual). Full disclosure, these were provided free in return for an honest review.

So with the difficulty in getting things shipped into the country right now, my extension cables are nowhere to be found and I really don’t expect to see them anytime soon, so I’ve had to improvise a bit. With the spacing of the sockets on the AE-9 you really should use a pair of extenders for the Dual Op-Amps in the Op-Amp 2 position, what I’ve done is install both singles without the included risers and then doubled up the risers for both of the duals. That gave me enough room to give them a slight bend and everything fits. It ain’t pretty but it works.

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My current setup is simply the Focal Clear plugged directly into the AE-9 direct via the ACM, even at stock I preferred it to the Liquid Carbon X/Topping D10 combo it replaced.

To get an idea of my tastes and experience, some of the other headphones I’ve owned and loved are the HD650, LCD2.1 and 2.2, HD800S, Andromeda S, IMR-R1, CA Jupiter. There’s been plenty of others but these are my favs.

I’ve been using the AE-9 with Burson V5i-D in the Op-Amp 2 sockets (I/V stage) since I got it, I swapped back to the stock NJM2114D and acclimated to that prior to installing the V6’s. I found that with the stock, everything was a bit duller than the V5i but not too different other than that.

I chose some songs that I have had plenty of listening time with recently and took some notes while listening:

Tidal Masters:

Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now. I like this song for the clean punchy bass under the verses. With the V6 the bass had a more pronounced edge and sounded a bit crisper. The cowbell-ish sound in the choruses had a much more defined place in space.

Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer. The sense of space between the layers of instruments was greatly improved. Everything was there but individually pin-pointable (is that a word?).

Stone Temple Pilots – Kitchenware & Candybars. During the quiet intro the vocals are at a perfect level to the guitar and sound very balanced. The sense of dynamics are huge when the full band kicks in. The Cello in the last verse has a definite space and I can see where they are sitting in the studio.

Flac files:

Beck – Paper Tigers. Low key intro has perfect bass. The guitar licks are extremely crisp and defined.

Dr Dre – Still D.R.E. The keys take the stage here and push the vocals a bit back. Snoop’s voice is very holographic and Present while Dre’s hide a bit.

M83 – Walkway Blues. Bass is tight and well defined, the very busy chorus gets a bit more coherent.

Nine Inch Nails – Piggy. Zero bloat in the bass hits in the first verse. Great transition between the solid hit and the drawn out note with natural decay. The tambourine in the first chorus has way more air and once it goes wild with the drum break after the second chorus the soundstage is huge for the remainder.

Muddy Waters – Good Morning Little School Girl. This song can get too bright very quick but there is a restraint here that while the snare and vocals have edge they don’t get shrill. The guitar has a very metallic sheen to it that reminds me a bit of the sharp edge my old beat up Martin had due to poor fretwork. I’ve never noticed it before and I’ve listened to this song tons.

Thrice – The Weight. The vocals over the intro sound further away. Once it kicks, in the vocals have a perfect balance. The bass is tight and controlled. There’s a slight fuzz effect on the bass that I’ve not noticed before.

All in all, these are a noticeable upgrade to the stock AE-9 and also a level above the V5i. The biggest improvement for me has been in the soundstage/imaging department, the sense of space has improved and the location of instruments feels more defined.
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Pros: Immediately noticeable improvement in sound quality. Pretty easy to fit - took considerably longer to remove the lid.
Cons: Expensive. Not a sexy upgrade (but worth it nonetheless).
I feel its important to put my cards on the table up-front with this review. The following points should give you a clearer idea of my thoughts and opinions regarding headphones:-

Much of my listening is done using headphones designed for portability.
I like wireless - much of my listening is done with wireless headphones and iems. Whilst I'm always looking for the best possible sound quality, I'm perfectly OK with the limitations of Bluetooth over wired.
My usual sources are my mobile phone and Google Play Music via my excellent Chromecast Audio. I don't tend to listen to many 'high-res' files.

The reason why I wanted to make those points was to illustrate that I don't really consider myself an audiophile - rather someone who likes good sound quality at an affordable price. In addition to my portable kit I do have a loudspeaker-based system which comprises of the following:-

Burson Audio Fun headphone amplifier
Burson Audio Swing DAC/Pre-Amp
Burson Audio Bang power amp.
Google Chrome cast Audio (connected to the Swing optically).

For non-portable headphone listening, I use the excellent Sennheiser HD598SR full-sized headphones. I consider these headphones to be a nice balance between relaxed listening (thanks to their extremely comfortable design) and capable of excellent analytical listening thanks to their extremely flat sound profile.

Swapping out the original Op-Amps for the Vivid's was a fairly simple process. I'm certainly not comfortable 'fiddling' around with the insides of my devices - I effectively have zero working knowledge of electronics. I basically just took my time, gently levered off the original chips using a flat bladed small screwdriver and inserted the Vivid's - making sure to get them in straight and not bending any of the legs. Although these are not quite 'zero insertion force' they're pretty easy to seat them onto the board with gentle downward pressure. The whole process really took less time than it did to get the lid off the amp.

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Sound Quality

This is what it's all about. As I mentioned earlier I tend to listen mostly to streamed content but even with the use of compressed audio the differences are really quite remarkable. Whilst I was perfectly happy with the sound quality of the stock Fun headphone amp, the Vivid's have definitely taken the amp to the next level.

The first thing I noticed was the increased details in the high-end. Whilst I'm very sensitive to overly 'bright' sounding systems, the Vivid's offered this additional detail without making the sound harsh. Cymbals have a more 'metallic' sheen to them, percussion is more 'percussive' and the overall sound character became 'faster' and more exciting.

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Another characteristic to come through after the swap out was imagery. Whilst headphones will always come second place to loudspeakers when it comes to stereo imagery in my opinion, the sense of depth, width and height to the soundstage was noticeably improved. The differences are certainly more than just minor adjustments to eq - the differences are more like the differences between a 128k and a 320k MP3 track. The sense of ambience - albeit artificial on many non-classical recordings is quite profound and certainly most welcome.

The overall sound character could be described as effortless - you can listen to your music at any volume you're comfortable with, clearly hear every detail in your recordings - be able to follow any instrument in the mix without having to concentrate - everything is presented to you without any apparent limitations. You can relax with the music and still maintain focus on what you like without having to make a conscious effort. Whilst this effect was present with the original Burson Play configuration, the addition of these op-amps makes a significant difference.

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I've often thought about trying out a tube amp and experimenting with 'tube rolling' but I also lack the patience that is often needed to nurture and tweak these types of amps - years ago I would happily spend hours fiddling around with my hifi system in order to get the slightest improvement in sound quality - I really can't be bothered to do things like this now - I'm more comfortable in accepting limitations. The combination of Fun and Vivid's really feels like there's no real limitations - the overall system really feels like it's working at its very best. This is such an easy upgrade - no soldering, no worries thanks to Burson's excellent protection against incorrect insertion - easy peasy lemon squeezy.

In conclusion, those who have appropriate equipment would definitely do well to investigate Burson's excellent upgrade option. Whilst this isn't necessarily cheap, it's certainly has a profound effect on the sound quality and is therefore highly recommended.
Pros: The perfect replacement for the stock NE5534
Cons: Still pricy for an opamp, but worth it if you feel the need for that upgrade!


I received these as a loaner to try out in the Burson Swing, so thanks Burson, really really nice to have to opportunity to try these out. I had a set of various other op-amps and will compare these as good as I can, in no particular order:

NE5534 (stock): had to mention these first. I honestly think the Swing sounds stellar in its stock configuration. Bass is tight, sound is very controlled and balanced. Noise levels are good until the highest of volumes. So really, not too bad.

LME49720: I had the 'HA' metal can version of these to try out. They are very low noise with very impressive specs, but honestly did not feel there was a big improvement over stock, perhaps actually slightly less musical. I'm sure these can be quite good sounding, but not really my jam in this particular amp. I'd say pass on these, I expected more.

AD797: the venerable BB 797 opamp is definitely in my favorite opamp list. They are basically the 5534 but better. Not super cheap for an opamp and perhaps really not 'worth' spending a lot of money on for a pre-soldered set on DIP switches, but if you like the stock sound and want that tiny improvement, I would recommend trying these.

And finally, Burson V6 Classic Duals: these... if you want that maximum feel of musicality, these are the opamps to get. They are very punchy sounding and just a breath of fresh air next to the typical discrete opamps. I'm really wondering if the Vivids sounds markedly different, because the Classics already made the biggest difference to me. They just match well with the Burson sound. From what I've seen they measure well too and are pretty noise free, and they definitely sound great. They are pricy, but worth saving up for if you want to max out your Burson amp.

Comments

I didn't see the LME49720 listed s one of the op-amps that can be replaced by either of the Burson V6 series. Does anyone know if the 49720 is safely "rollable" with a V6? I'm thinking specifically of it's use in the Topping DX7 Pro.
 
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