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Burson Audio Supreme Sound Opamp V6 Vivid and Classic

Rating:
5/5,
  1. theoutsider
    The End Game of Opamps
    Written by theoutsider
    Published Jul 1, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - The sound quality is as good as it gets!
    Cons - Size, that’s something you should already know.
    First of all, I would like to apologize to Mr. Charles of Burson for late delivery of this long overdue review. I guess I will blame it on my penchant for procrastination and drinking. I am sure many of you can relate to that.

    I will start with a bit of my history with Burson Supreme Sound. This review is very much a continuation of the review I wrote on Burson V5i months ago. In that review, I mentioned that V5i is a bit of a half-measure.

    V5i is a partial discrete opamp, the sound is not a total departure from a conventional IC opamp. I compared V5i with some of the opamps I have then and I think V5i performed very well as an opamp but it is not a game changer that delivers the ‘other-worldliness‘ in sound. So I ended that review voicing my keen interest to check out Burson Supreme Sound V6, the pure discrete opamp!

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    Fast forward a month or two, I was granted my wish and another few weeks later I received two pieces of V6s in my mailbox, a vivid V6 (red) and a classic V6 (orange). Hurray, I rode off into the sunset and have since lived happily ever after…

    Hahaha, not really. It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, at least not in my point of view, I still see myself grinding through this humdrum existence.


    The Sound Test

    I usually numb my pessimism by listening to music and I treat opamp rolling and appreciation as a sorta sacred ritual because it takes up a lot of attention and time. I don’t always roll my opamps, but when I do, I do it ceremonially, like it is some kinda Chado.

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    At the time of writing this review I have already upgraded my sources, DAC, amplifier and what have you. A third of my desktop real estate is now occupied by audio gears and gizmos. For this comparison, I scribbled down how I felt and perceived, what I subconsciously heard listening to my various setups.

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    On any given day, I listen to a variety of music but for this discrete opamp connoisseur exercise, I made myself loop through selected songs and albums below:

    Another Day in Paradise - Phil Collins
    Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
    Rosanna - Toto
    The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
    Diana Krall’s Wallflower album

    and some of those songs by Norah Jones

    Ya, I know, give me that mackerel eyes and call me cliche.

    Straight from my Dell Laptop (DAC Conexant ccx20672 21z) = The sound is sad and muffled, I had never listened through the laptop jack ever since getting my first lossless player.

    Straight from Sabaj Da2(unbalanced) = Edgy sound with some spiky high but it is quite a bit better than listening straight from my laptop.

    Straight from Sabaj Da2(balanced) = Crystal clear sound but it is still a little anemic. It is not bad overall, at least the mid sounded fuller now.

    Straight from Zishan Z2 (with V6 Vivid)
    = Vocal sounded very “human” with the red tower. V6 Vivid is obviously less fatigue sounding than listening straight from Sabaj Da2. It sounded “rounded off” and perhaps a little colored compared to listening straight from Sabaj Da2.

    Straight from Zishan Z2 (with V6 Classic) =
    Vocal sounded more in the face compared to V6 Vivid, V6 Classic is a tad more aggressive sounding than the red V6. Music sounded very engaging through V6 Classic and there is a sense of intimacy in the sound.

    Zishan Z2 (as DAC) with Nobsound NS-02E (with V6) = The mid sounded too thick for my liking, I didn’t like it.

    Dell laptop with Nobsound NS-02E (with both V6) = Did not sound very refined, the sound has a bit of character but is slightly grainy. Some details were lost somewhere.

    italic = with Burson Supreme Sound V6 attached

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    After some comparisons, I quickly realized the benefits of a good discreet opamp. Overall Burson Supreme Sound V6 delivers a denser, fuller sound with a perceptibly wider soundstage. That confirmed Burson’s claim of V6 as offering a live concert experience.

    Discrete opamps have a dozen of benefits but none is more important than the higher output power. The off-the-shelf integrated circuit (IC) opamps can only run at about half a watt (0.5w) because there’s no way to squeeze huge individual electronic components into an IC opamp. Discrete opamps by nature do not have such limitation, they are capable of delivering tighter sound with wider and more realistic soundstage.

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    If you own Burson Supreme Sound V6, I recommend you to listen to Baker street by Gerry Rafferty. With a pair of full size open back headphones, I was able to enjoy the song like I had never before. Playing the song through V6 Vivid, I don't think the soprano saxophone line can sound any better.

    My go to track for accessing the smoothness of sound is All Along the Watch Tower by Bob Dylan. It is not a song I typically listen to with my earphones. All Along the Watch Tower is a harmonica-rich track, the harmonica section sounded extremely harsh straight from analytical DAC such as Sabaj Da2. The same track sounded fine through V6 Vivid and better with V6 Classic.

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    Overall I think the two V6s sounded more ‘emotional’ compared to the IC opamps that I own. They are still no way as sophisticated sounding as a tube amplifier but unlike a tube amplifier, V6s retain a higher level of clarity and details in a song. The tube amplifier (at least the one I own) tend to filter off some of the minute details in a song.

    I have also compared V6 to V5i, V6 is obviously a step up. V6 Vivid is a direct upgrade of all aspects from V5 while V6 Classic is a variant with a different sound. Personally I prefer the red V6 Vivid for contemporary and rock songs because the sound signature is more accentuated. Classic V6 works great if you listen to folk, country, concerto or other audiophile engineered medias.


    Packaging

    V6 came nicely packed and sealed in a small plastic snap case. The case is actually very handy for storing Burson opamps. If you have plenty of opamps and you suck at housekeeping then you will understand what I am saying.


    Physical

    Burson Supreme Sound V6 looks tall and massive in pictures. It stands at 29mm and the footprint is 12.4mm x 14.5mm. It is one of the largest if not tallest opamp in the market, maybe the coolest looking as well.



    Don’t expect V6 to fit inside Zishan Z2 because they simply won’t. Actually I should take my words back. If you are comfortable with soldering and tinkering, you can actually shift the capacitor to another location and have V6 laying flat inside Z2 housing. Also, when I am using XuanZu XZ-U303 with the two V6s, I have to keep the lid off.

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    Burson Supreme Sound V6 looks like a Lego brick and it is color coded. The bright red plastic tower is V6 vivid and the one with orange housing is V6 Classic. I am not able to inspect the parts inside because the whole construction is sealed off with black epoxy at the bottom. However I am able to peep through the vent holes at the top and I can spot two pieces of printed circuit boards (PCBs) suspended inside, held apart by the external plastic. Yes, I believe the vents are there for heat dissipation because V6 does heat up when it is operating.

    On the outside, V6 looks minimalist. There isn’t a lot to talk about the physical design. Apart from the taper for mold release, V6 is very much a square column. The front is pad-printed with Burson’s kangaroo logo, suggesting that Burson is an Aussie company.

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    The pins at the bottom of V6 are plated with gold (or so it seems). I have swapped the two V6s in and out of my amplifiers many times and the pins are holding up alright. Compare that to my other IC opamps with crooked pins, I have to say that V6 screams quality.

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    It is amazing how Burson discrete opamp had evolved and reduced in size. They switched from using bulkier electronic components to smaller components, hence also achieving lower power consumption and a reduced minimal working voltage. V6 looks a million time sturdier (a figure of speech) than the bare-naked V4. Also for your information, V6 is now backed by Burson lifetime warranty, so worry no more.

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    Most naked or bare discrete opamps do not have intuitive marking for installation. For orientation, Burson designed in a groove on one side of V6 for matching with the notch on a DIP8 socket. I read that if an opamp is plugged in reverse, it will get destroyed. That will no longer be the case for V6 as it is probably the first and only opamp in the world to be equipped with reverse voltage protection. In simple English, it means you will not fry V6 even if you install them reversely in the dip8 slots.


    Technical

    V6 is the sixth iteration of the Supreme Sound discrete opamp and the result of over 12 years of research and development. It is the most refined opamp that to roll out off Burson's factory today.

    It is not altogether surprising that discrete opamps consume more current than the conventional IC opamp due to larger and separated components. That said, the efficiency of V6 is quite a leap from V4, a dual V6 opamp consumes about 14mA (mili Ampere) compared to 40mA of a dual V4. Most people will not have a problem with the power consumption because in most cases, V6 can only be used in stationary amplifiers. The reduced minimum operating voltage also means V6 is compatible with more amplifiers.

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    V6 Classic and V6 Vivid have different PCB layouts and they produce slightly different sound. V6 Vivid should have similar sound signature to its predecessor V5 while V6 Classic that has an entirely different output stage design is intended to sound different.

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    I figured that a single discrete opamp almost always has a single PCB to hold the electronic components. Dual discrete opamps tend to have two identical PCBs and the PCBs should be similar to that of the single discrete version of the same opamp. The PCBs in V6 stand vertically with both PCBs facing back-to-back in the housing. SparkosLabs (another discrete opamp maker) had another approach, they arranged their dual opamp PCBs horizontally.

    I have seen some adapters that converts two single opamps into a dual opamp. I have also heard people telling me that the best sound can only be achieved by pairing two single opamps with an adapter but now that I look at it in detail, I think that’s bogus. If you need a dual opamp, save yourself the trouble, just go ahead and purchase a dual opamp.


    Compatibility and Pairing

    The sample I received are dual op amps so I am not able to use them in VE Runabout Plus but they work fine with Zishan Z2 and XuanZu XZ-U303/ Nobsound NS-02E.

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    I have tried to pair Burson Supreme Sound V5i with XZ-U303 with very little success, it hissed beyond acceptable level. However I do not have a problem fitting V6s into the same tube amplifier, it works flawlessly! I really didn’t expect XZ-U303 to work with V6 seeing that it didn’t work with V5i.


    Some Word of Advice:

    A single opamp can only replace another single opamp and a dual with a dual. The two are not compatible and cannot be used interchangeably.

    Do not try to hot-swap your opamps, you will get a loud noise that will potentially destroy your eardrums and earphones.

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    If you did not manage to fit V6 into your amplifier due to constrained space, consider getting DIP8 extension sockets or risers. I am currently using DIP8 extension sockets for XuanZu XZ-U303.

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    There’s a saying that PCB is part of the opamp design. If you wish to reduce the noise level of your audio setup, you can try out this mod by wrapping V6 with a piece of copper foil and have it grounded. I have not gotten around to do the mod but in theory it should work like a Faraday cage and cut down on external electromagnetic interference.

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    Last but not least, be warned that opamp rolling is an addictive activity so do it responsibly. Make sure you have enough time to burn before going down the rabbit hole.


    Conclusion

    Burson Supreme Sound V6 is the best opamp money can buy and the sound quality is as good as it gets.

    If you already spent a fortune on headphones, earphones, DACs and amplifiers, don’t settle for mediocrity, go the distance and try out Burson Supreme Sound V6.
      DBaldock9 likes this.