Burson Audio Swing Pre-amp ESS9038 + V6 vivid Duals– Review
[Disclaimer] I have no affiliation with Burson and was loaned the amp for the duration of the review period only. I would like to thank Burson for this opportunity (and patience!) to spend time with, enjoy and review the Swing Pre-amp
[Background] I have been collecting IEM’s & headphones for over 20 years and have been a Producer, Sound Engineer, Editor & Mastering Engineer for 10 years.
I find myself always looking for and interested in that all too elusive truth and purity of audio reproduction!
The Actual Review
Impressions during playtime
Highs, mids & lows
Sennheiser HD 250 Linear - 300 ohm
Sennheiser HD 540 Reference 1 - 600 ohm
Auriaonics ASG 2.5
One thing that I found surprising was how the BAS+V6 was not only able to offer a different sound quality to the base version but also the degree to which it somehow ‘corrected’ one of my favourite headphones !
I decided to spend some time with [arguably] one the best closed back headphones ever made, certainly one of the best vintage closed back cans made, the Sennheiser HD 250
It’s difficult to express what it means to have a ‘prefect’ tonality but [for a closed back] and being the sister headphone of the legendary open back Sennheiser HD 540 the Sennheiser HD 250 has the potential (with the right pads + cable) to be as close to ‘perfect’ as you could hope for
However, listening to the BAS+V6 I was presented with a headphone I had never heard before. Everything - the layering, separation, clarity, High/Mid/Low balance, tonality/PRaT is just spot on. I could find nothing that I feel could be improved upon. Moreover, despite being presented with so much to hear, at the same time I find my self effortlessly being able to let go into the music itself.
This in itself is a very important point. There is so much audio gear out there that is tuned to impress as oppose to being tuned to be as truthful and accurate as possible. One of the best examples of this in recent times was the ‘Beats’ headphone with its mighty bass. Many [perhaps less experienced] people thought the headphone was great largely due to its celebratory endorsement and its huge low end. It had a real ‘WoW!’ factor. In other words it was tuned to impress but at the end of the day it couldn’t replicate what the music actually sounded like in any realistic way.
Anyway, so this is my point about why the BAS+V6 is so good – it is tuned to be truthful and accurate to the point where you can enjoy so many aspects of what is in the music and yet still be able to just relax into it.
The combination of the ‘Audiophile’s’ delights of detail & realism and the PRaT of the ‘Music Lover’ are married so skilfully together with the BAS+V6 it’s such a joy and feels like a privilege to be able to experience it.
So it is perfect? The only thing I would say and its not so much a criticism as an explanation of the type of sound the V6 Vivid’s offer is that the V6 Vivids are real monsters! They give you everything. They are a real rock concert sounding Opamp that delivers such a rich powerful sound whilst still maintaining all the pedigree of a top Audiophile amp. You really get the best of everything. If you love your rock, soul etc then this amp will save you a lot of money in having to go to actual concerts!
In comparison, I found the Basic Opamp to be more of a ‘classical concert sound’ I found similar details but the sound was sweeter, quieter over all
Listening to a DSD recording of ‘Steam Hammer’ by Peter Gabriel I was struck by how much energy and power from this track was portrayed in such a beautifully balanced manner. Every instrument was given its own space to not only breath but to shine and thus I was able to not only hear but to fully enjoy each and every single instrument in the track
Listening to a combination of 24/192 vinyl rips and SACD’s of Joe Walsh it also strikes me what a great ‘equalizer’ the BAS is! Despite there being obvious differences between the warm analogue of a vinyl rip and the accurate clean detail of DSD there always seems to be a similar over all tone in the sense that you wouldn’t necessarily know that each song is coming from different albums never mind mediums.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. To achieve this level of consistency and quality and with a powerful energy is rare. It is this very quality though that makes me feel the V6 Opamps are maybe more suited to the music lover, someone who just wants to relax and enjoy the music in the manner that the Artist and the Sound Engineer intended.
Certainly from memory, the ‘Basic version’ with 4x ES55320 Opamps seemed more detail orientated perhaps being more suitable to the detail obsessed Audiophile! Or for the Headphone only user?
The Low end, Mids and Highs:
Rich and smooth, deep and controlled – Never overbearing and yet majestic.
Acoustic bass lines have that wonderful ‘woody’ richness that brings visions of the bass player being immersed in each pluck , thoroughly enjoying the timbre of his 1970’s Fender, losing all sense of time as each perfect bass note vibrates through his body.
Anyway, my point being that there is a natural rich acoustic tone to many of the bass guitars that is addictive and makes a fertile imagination sing with joy!
There is a more visceral, meaty, more immediate depth and width to the Bass with the V6’s sounding like you are nearer to the instruments than with the ‘Classic Opamps’ The soundstage may suffer slightly because of this although this is not so much as a fault as a different presentation of the music
The sub bass is superb and certainly seems more prevalent and of a higher quality than the ‘Basic Opamp’ It is wonderfully controlled and detailed offering a powerful visceral feel and yet has a definable level of quality and accuracy. It is not just there as a gimmick but has the same excellent detailed expression of the bass, mids and highs, a rare and pleasurable surprise!
Going over to vinyl of ‘Ella Fitzgerald – Ella & Bassie’ and listening to “dream a Little Dream of Me’ You are met by a thunderously rich and warm organ – the physical feeling of is frighteningly like hearing it in a live setting. Mixed in with this is a delicate guitar strumming in the background which despite being far back in the mix is crystal clear. There are trumpets that come into the right stereo field that sound and feel realistically ‘brass like’ Again I was struck by their exciting ‘live’ sound.
When Ella starts singing she is full, rich with an incredible space around her voice. The BAS has a wonderful ability to keep the 3D space of the recording studio intact
Over all, female mids seem a bit more prominent where as male vocals, although not recessed are more integrated into the mix. Perhaps better to say that as the V6’s offer a warmer, fully richer sound making male vocals appear to sit deeper in the mix.
As I mentioned earlier the BAS has an amazing ability to somehow equalize all elements in the mix so that everything has a chance and a space to express itself in and yet the vocals, when important in the mix, are perfectly clear and set in their own space – centre stage
Somehow the highs are crystal clear and yet never display any sibilance. On tracks that have hot highs already present on the recording the BAS seems to be able to keep the energy and yet somehow keep any sibilance ‘hidden away’ It could be tempting to say the highs are slightly rolled off but I think better to say that they are tuned perfectly in relation to the mids and lows. No details are lost and yet they seems smooth and buttery clean
In one sense, it’s not easy to comment in detail on the highs, mids and lows as they are all so very well balanced with each other. There is nothing given any prominence.
One aspect that is very impressive and is an important aspect to point out with the highs is that amongst the ‘tour-de-force of the majestic presence’ of the sound you can still clearly hear full transients
With the BAS+V6 you have an over all presentation that is powerfully energetic, warm, rich yet balanced perfectly. Everything in the mix has a chance to breath and shine. You feel physically much closer to the actual instruments which makes the V6 Opamp upgrade a very interesting proposal if you want something more than the [essentially sweet detail] of the original ‘Basic’ version. They are both superb each offering a different flavour
Main music I use for testing…amongst others:
Natalie Merchant – Ophelia [cd 16-44]
Bane & Doe – Endangered by me [cd 16-44]
Right Away, Great Captain! – The Bitter End [cd 16-44]
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – S/T [vinyl 24-96]
Bjork – Post (Hyper-ballad) – [vinyl 24-96]
Crosby & Nash – Another Stoney Evening – [flac 24-96]
Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Lightly – [vinyl 24-96]
Janis Joplin – Cheap Thrills (Summertime) – [vinyl 24-96]
Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsies [vinyl 24-96 - Capital 1997]
Joe Walsh – (Country Fair) [ DSD]
John Martyn – Solid Air [vinyl 24-96]
Lou Reed – Transformers [vinyl 24-96 MFSL]
Nirvana – Nevermind [vinyl 24-96 DGC]
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool – [vinyl 24-96]
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions – [DSD]