PC focused Dac/Preamp/Headamp combo unit

Burson Play

  • Alright! Time for an in-depth review of the Burson Play folks. Before I get into the details I'll tell you a bit about myself and my preferences. I've been into headphones and my quest for improved sound started when discovering my trusted FiiO E11 + Galaxy S combo. This combo is still alive today, somehow.. From there I've evolved through many sets of headphones, gear and grown here with Head-Fi as a skilled cable builder. On the audio front my preferences have matured and I've grown to become very discerning in what I require out of my gear.

    Currently my must have traits in a headphone rig include versatility, detail retrieval, soundstage/accuracy, realism, engagement and instrument separation. I do not care for smearing or alteration of sound.. You can read on my profile my past preferences, however currently I prefer AKG K702s powered by an iDSD BL because of the performance they provide. Often I will test a setup in a competitive FPS game simply because it will expose poor soundstage placement and accuracy immediately. From there of course lots of music across several genres is how I put new gear that lands in my hands through the gauntlet. Also, my hearing is good...for now.. :)


    Lets start with a look at Burson's Play. The Play is a 5.25" bay compatible DAC/Preamp/Headamp combo making this a truly PC based solution that also plays nice with HTPCs. It includes a nice feeling aluminum remote just for that purpose. Also included is a power brick, USB cable and rubber feet for external use. For internal installation of the Play a PCI bracket w/Pre-Out hookups is included along with internal USB header cable, adapters and other goodies. All boxes checked on this one so far when it comes to features. The Pot has a great display and features the same design look as the Conductor v2+. Volume scrolling has a satisfying click and has the nice touch of muting when pressed in. This is hands down the nicest volume pot I've used. If I could nitpick the design at all I'd say that I would prefer a display dimming option, however that is just my preference. As-is the display isn't utterly blinding or anything.


    The Play features the ability to roll Op-Amps, heck they even encourage it. I've found some solid sonic benefits that fit my preference from rolling in my STX. The Play features 3 dual opamps in the Dac I/V section and two singles in the amp path. My rolling journey with the STX ended with the Burson V5 so I now have the Play equipped with the V6 Vivid. The improvement they've made is impressive with these Op-Amps and clarity is through the roof while still retaining the engaging Burson signature sound. I will mention that I did prefer Burson Op-Amps over the Muses I've rolled in the past so I've stuck with them. When it comes to these Op-Amps specifically there are two choices from Burson, Vivid and Classic. Vivid is all about detail retrieval, transparency and accuracy. Classic is said to bring the performance forward upping engagement for a relaxing and more euphoric experience.

    I plan on trying the Classic in the future for those sessions however for this review and the main purpose of the Play for me I'll be using the Vivid. Swapping is as simple as removing the top 4 lid screws and removing the top panel. There is a handy diagram on the bottom of the lid even for which Op-Amp type goes where. A quick swap and you are up and running in moments with a different sound signature. It is worth mentioning the obvious, never swap while the unit is powered on.


    If you've made it this far it is time to be treated with the meat and potatoes! I know, the appetizer was a big salad with a long wait.. worry not! The meal is worth it. I always start my analytics with the FPS test. The current go-to is a game by the name of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. This game features 100 players scavenging supplies and taking each other out in a tactical fashion. High quality sound is key so that you can discern the distance of gunshots and footsteps of other players to gain the competitive edge. One notable situation is in the staging area before a match begins. As all the players wait, jump/run around etc inferior gear will present sound as overlapping and muddy due to the sheer amount of audio information. My old Schiit gear I would say is the worst offender of soundstage depth alternation. The play pulled this test off presenting sound accurately, had excellent layering and a holographic sound. I mean, if you're going to advertise your gear gaming capable you'd best deliver as I'd verbally tear it to pieces otherwise.

    A frequent notation I had for the Play is that the sound was more realistic than with the iDSD. Gunfire was harrowing and impactful. Footsteps had a more crisp and realistic crunch. If I was a guessing man I would attribute this to the amp section in the Play being superior. As far as detail goes, both units were equal and I did not feel I was missing out either way. I would also like to share that a high quality 2ch headphone setup provides top notch positional audio. I've tested three surround sound headphones in my day and I prefer a quality 2ch for gaming and VASTLY prefer it for music, just my opinion.

    Musically the Play puts up a strong showing. My musical preferences have grown as I have and in this evolution I've found that some genres I've liked in the past are no longer compatible with my new gear. EDM specifically or really any other treble hot recordings are no longer in the mix. However, playing songs like Ed Solo's Egyptian Horns on the Play brings a huge smile across my face. An enveloping sound is laid out in front with great soundstage and detail retrieval. Bass from the Sabre ESS9018 DAC fed through the V6 Vivids is strong, layered and punchy. Mids are liquid around the edges with all of the detail at heart. Highs are prominent with sparkle that takes you to that edge tight shouldered yet avoid being fatiguing. I've been able to put hours on the Play at a time without fatigue through my pairs of headphones, a feat in its own.

    My first thought was maybe the treble is rolled a bit, however I've found that it is simply not hiked forward like on a lot of gear I've owned in the past, giving the illusion of increased detail. I performed quite a few detail retrieval tests to confirm this and found the Play left nothing behind. Switching up genres Radiohead was also enjoyed in all its greatness as was surprisingly enough some poorly recorded Megadeth I threw into the mix. The Play is forgiving yet still resolute on recordings with plenty of information to provide. Dynamic range on the Play was excellent and I didn't feel a pinch in either direction. The background is black and the Play was dead silent all the way to max on a pair of IEMs I tested. During some torture burn-in with an unrealistic load the Play got moderately warm, however during normal listening with inefficient headphones I'd call it 'barely warm at all'. Soldering work was also excellent.


    When it comes to PC audio lets be honest for a minute. All in pc solutions up until now are fairly par compared to other options out on the market today. Onboard sound has come a long way, sure.. I'll agree there... still unacceptable though. PCI/e based solutions inched that forward into viable. Can they compete with offboard solutions? No, not even close. Burson however has bucked this trend and set a new benchmark in my opinion with the Play. It has taken the top spot as my go-to daily driver from a performance standpoint alone before even considering its capability as a PC based unit. The implementation is solid and I struggle to find fault with the Play, it's that good. For my purposes and in my opinion it outperforms the gear I've owned to date. For the money Play is a no brainer compared to current soundcard prices. The V6's cost a little extra however these can be added down the road. After my experiences with rolling Op-Amps I'd just rather cut to the chase though and get the V6's. Thanks for the read I hope you enjoyed!

Recent Reviews

  1. Admiralcreamy
    Fantastic DAC for PC Gamers
    Written by Admiralcreamy
    Published Mar 16, 2018
    Pros - Convenient
    Excellent Sound
    Great Value
    Highly Customizable
    Cons - Too-Bright Volume Indicator

    There are already some great, incredibly detailed reviews of the Play on here, so I’ll try to provide a different prospective. I’m a newbie to premium audio, and the Burson Play was the first high-end non-mobile DAC I’ve listened to. I currently own a Yulong U100 and have previously experienced the Chord Mojo. I paired the Play with my HD580s and Bose QC35s.


    What really interested me about the Play was the ability to finally make some use one of those 5.25” drives on the front of my computer. The unit can be inserted into any standard bay and is powered via Molex. There are additional adapters you can purchase to route the RCA jacks to the back of your PC using a single PCI slot.

    I used the Play both with the included power supply and through my PC’s power supply (Cooler Master RS850). I did not notice any difference in audio quality or volume between the two.

    One of my favourite features of my Yulong U100 is the convenience of having one unit as a DAC, AMP, and source for my desktop speakers (Paradigm Micro V3). The Play is a direct upgrade to every one of these aspects.

    The chassis is plain, but still attractive. The volume knob clicks nicely and everything about it speaks quality. There are a couple minor annoyances, however. The volume indication doubles as an on light and is a little bright for my taste; you’d have to turn the Play off every night if your PC is in your bedroom. The Play also got significantly hotter than my Yulong U100, but this isn’t much of an issue for a desk unit.


    The Play is marketed as a gaming peripheral, so I though I’d cover that first. All gaming tests were done with my HD580s.

    Battlefield 1

    An incredibly immersive experience. The Play brought isolation, soundstage, and agility to DICE’s legendary audio. I was able to comfortably hear everything I needed to without blowing my eardrums. Gunshots has satisfying punch and explosions were exciting without being overpowering. Compared to the U100, the Play provided a significant extra layer of detail and clarity.

    Forza Motorsport 7

    Audio is incredibly important to me in a racing game, and the Play did not disappoint. Engine growls, tire squeals, and the wind rushing passing me were all delivered beautifully. Again, the addition detail led to a deeply immersive experience; a cut above the average U100.

    Wolfenstein II

    Kneecapping Nazis has never sounded so sweet. The Play lent its power in the low end to push my HD580s beyond what I thought they were capable of. Gunshots were meaty and the soundstage was expanded to add realism and immersion. Sneaking was genuinely easier compared to the U100 as I was able to hear every little rustle and whisper.


    After experiencing what the Play could deliver with gaming, I was very exited to try out my favourite songs. For these tests I used my HD580s as well as my QC35s. I’ll be comparing the Burson to my Yulong U100 and the Chord Mojo.

    Touch by Daft Punk Ft. Paul Williams

    The Play’s outstanding detail was evident with the orchestral sections and general atmospheric quality of this incredible track. Sound was mostly level, with a (very welcome) more pronounced low-end on the 580s compared to the U100 and Mojo. The Play was superior to the U100 in every aspect, as expected. The Mojo, however, won me over with its warm, exciting mid-range, which was more detailed and pronounced than the Play. Even when paired with the more mobile-focused QC35s, the Play delivered quality, managing to expand the soundstage of these closed-back headphones.

    Sunflower Seeds by Bryce Vine

    Once again, the extended low-end on the Play was a boon to somewhat lacking 580s. The unique, mellow beat was smooth and crisp, with Play easily outpacing the U100s lackluster low-end and detail. The Mojo fell behind on this track as I felt the Play provided a more open soundstage and sweet low-end. The Play’s slightly emphasized lows did not feel overpowering at all on my QC35s, which sounded much closer to what their price tag should suggest.

    Under the Water by Aurora

    This track hits with an unexpected, dominant drop, and the Play performed beautifully. The drums were punchy and exiting. Aurora’s vocals were detailed and magical. The Play was a cut above the U100 here, although the Mojo provided more clarity.


    The Play really seems like a no-brainer for PC Gaming enthusiast with a little cash to spare. Its ability to hide in your PC saves valuable desk space and the customizability really speaks to the target audience. The Play doesn’t skimp on audio quality either, with incredible detail and an extended low-end sure to please. I’d heartily recommend this to anyone thinking of getting into the audiophile world or just looking for an upgrade to an entry-level DAC.
  2. raoultrifan
    Probably the best DAC/headamp for inside PC use!
    Written by raoultrifan
    Published Jan 22, 2018
    Pros - Able to play WAV, APE, MP3, FLAC etc. but also DSD x64, x128, x256 formats natively, without any clicks when switching between source format
    - Need no drivers for OS Sierra nor for Windows 10 (however, Burson is providing dedicated custom drivers for Windows 10)
    - Very good, detailed and neutral sound, especially when using audiophile headphones
    latest generation USB transporter chip followed by a very detailed Reference DAC connected to a very powerful Class-A amplifier makes it easy to use most headphones out there, even planars
    - One of the best DAC/headamp combo for opamp rollers
    - Headphones protection circuit with relay (for DC-output, but also if you connect dual instead of single opamps in the pre-amplification stage)
    - Able to get the power either from included PSU, either from the PC's PSU (only the +12V)
    Cons - Not recommended for use with sensitive IEM
    - Volume gain is a bit higher when pairing with very sensitive 16-32 ohms headphones
    - A bit on the pricey side perhaps

    I received this wonderful DAC/headamp combo a couple of weeks ago from BURSON-Australia to give it a listen and write a detailed review here, many thanks to Charles for that. This is what I did actually, I gave it an over 200 hours of burn-in combined with intensive listening tests, mostly Jazz (oldies, but also contemporary), Blues, Rock, Classic music and Club hits as well, so I did covered most genres of music I usually listed to.

    Photo: BURSON courtesy

    For me, as a computer engineer, but also an electronics-hobbyist, it's very important what's "inside the box" and how the device measures, but also what kind of components manufacturer is using when building the final product.

    Well, I was amazed that inside the PLAY Burson was using same high-quality components like in a high-end device: Dale resistors, ELNA Silmic II and ELNA Tonerex capacitors. Given the 5.25" form factor and Burson recommendation this DAC/headamp combo was designed with PC users and PC gamers in mind, so given the "target audience" I wasn't really expecting such audiophile-like components inside.

    Inside components view

    Powerful Class-A transistors amplifier

    Gold-plated plugs and protection circuitry

    Backside view of the PCB (see the ground-plane)

    Now I'm going to dig into this baby a little bit.

    The USB module is connected to the mainboard through a 7-pin adapter, so it's easy to take it apart and swap it for another module, in case of RMA for example. Also, this modular design makes possible a future upgrade, in case BURSON might think there's place for improvement. Who knows, maybe an USB 3.0 card or a SPDIF or RIAA converter or perhaps a newer XMOS chip or...just my imagination? :) The inside firmware can be future upgradable via the 3 volts 4Mb 25P40VP serial flash memory: M25P40 Serial Flash Embedded Memory - Micron Technology, Inc.. Entire USB module is getting the +5V power from a dedicated LT1085 low-noise regulator, so no power noise & ripple should get injected from the PC's power supply.

    XMOS USB module

    There's a low-power USB hub controller on the USB module, 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.

    By the Digital-to-Analog conversion is taking good care the Reference DAC chip developed by ESS, ES9018K2M, 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 127dB and a THD+N of -120dB. It has also a 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.

    ESS DAC and the low-noise power regulators

    The DAC chip is powered via the supplied +12V power source that is later lowered to +5V by a dedicated LT1085 low-dropout & low-noise regulator (different LDO than the one used to power the USB module), 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).

    Moving from the XMOS USB interface and ES9018K2M DAC further till headphones output plug, the PLAY version with SS V5/V6 opamps included is probably the only DAC/headamp combo designated for use inside a PC case that is using from head to tail only discrete components. Yes, transistors and high quality passive components, without any integrated chips in signal path, because the SS V5 and SS V6 operational amplifiers are 100% discrete and not regular IC chips! Also, I was unable to identify any capacitors in signal path either, by the DC output voltage is taking care an additional protection circuit that acts a relay on headphones 6.3 mm plus.

    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:

    Microphone/IN frequency response

    Microphone/IN signal response for 1 KHz signal

    The output sound of the PLAY is having a pristine clarity, a very good soundstage, clear and upfront voices with extreme details in instrument reproduction. While listening to DSD Scott Hamilton - Ballads for Audiophiles I was able to detect on my headphones the correct positioning of every instrument on the scene, it's like being able to listen to all micro-details properly and to enjoy the music in a large soundstage. I was also amazed by how saxophone sounds while listening to more DSDs with Coleman Hawkins and Charles Lloyd; this is actually the best DSD DAC player I have at home at the moment and I really think the sound of the DSD format on the PLAY is awesome. I was specifically listening to jazz and sax because I'm very sensitive to this type of music and if doesn't sounds right then my ears are easily getting irritating (not the case with PLAY!).

    PLAY measures very well too, perhaps a little bit better than the original specs; I've found no channel imbalance and a perfectly flat frequency response, combined with a neutral sound on both RCA and 6.3mm plugs:

    Frequency response

    Dynamic range & noise levels

    1KHz frequency response


    Impulse response

    The 2-Watts Class-A inside amplifier is able to easily drive both dynamic and planar headphones, from up to 600-ohms. As you can see from the below picture, I was able to push it to 7.4V RMS with 1KHz signal/30-ohms, meaning 1.825W/30-ohms of power on each channel. In case you're wondering how can it get about 2W/channel from a 12V PSU: no, it actually can't, so there are inside a couple of converters able to pump-up +/-15V to the opamps and to the transistors from the output stage.

    1 KHz perfect sinewave

    Nevertheless, this is one of the best Hi-Fi equipment for PC's where opamp rollers can successfully test their preferred opamps in I/V, LPF and Voltage Amplification stages. I've successfully tested myself lot of opamps without issues: BURSON SS V6 Classic & Vivid, BURSON SS V5, BURSON V5i, NE5532, LM4562, LME49720, NJM2114, OPA2132, OPA1652, OPA1602, AD8599, AD8672, MUSES8820, MUSES8920 etc. However, you need to take very good care of opamp "polarity" (pin1 should connected correctly) and try not mixing single with dual opamps or vice-versa (respect Burson's included schematic).

    Variable volume control makes possible interconnection with active monitors/speakers, so I've took the opportunity to connect my Mackie MR6mk3 monitors and the MR10Smk3 subwoofer. Besides the volume potentiometer no other adjustments were needed, just plug and play and output sound was perfect into my ears, no EQ or DSP filters needed...it just sounded right from the 1st second. However, volume level was setup around 42% to get the desired 2V RMS on PLAY's RCA outputs, so I can correctly feed my Mackie speakers.

    Using SS V6 Vivid in all DIP8 sockets sound gets more upfront, especially women vocals, but also the cymbals. If low-bitrate MP3 are going to be listen then prepare to hear every little encoding imperfection, because these opamps are more crispy and detailed oriented, but without harshness.

    The SS V6 Classic are a bit more laid-back, with a detailed and a bit larger scene, totally neutral and very good for monitoring. The SS V6 Classic I liked most in the pre-amplification stage, so I intend to use them from now on all my devices on voltage amplification stage (already using with success it in my Matrix M-Stage HPA-3B).

    Remote control is slim and fits nicely in my hands and the battery is easy to replace, based on the backplate that is kept in place by the 4 small magnets:

    Remote control

    There are accessories to connect the PLAY inside the PC case with ease, just unmount your PC, mount the below bracket, connect the included USB cable to your motherboard USB port. The included RCA-RCA cables are short and meant for use inside your PC to connect the RCA plugs of the PLAY to the RCA output bracket.

    PC connection kit

    Included gold-plated RCA cables

    PLAY has a very good instrument separation, very neutral and with a good soundstage, not huge but also not very intimate. The final sound can easily get changed by swapping the opamps, so feel free to add your own flavor here.

    CONCLUSION: Probably the best and the only DAC/headamp combo designed to fit inside a PC case that is using a XMOS chip for USB transport and a fully discrete Class-A amplifier. At least I'm not aware of any other manufacturer providing such a powerful amplifier for a PC soundcard/combo. Most manufacturers are relying on integrated opamp output buffers, which is fine, of course, but under no circumstances would compete with a 2W Class-A transistors output stage.

    Note: I don't have a perfect tool to do the noise measurements, but my good old ASUS U7 has a really low-noise ADC (around -110dB).
      newdoughboy likes this.
  3. newdoughboy
    Burson Play /w V6s Discrete Opamps - Daily Driver
    Written by newdoughboy
    Published Jan 14, 2018
    Pros - Build Quality, Value, Fun Factor, Audiophile Prowess
    Burson Play Review
    I’ve had the Play for over 15 days, and this is my review. The unit was originally sent with JRC IC opamps. I also ordered some V6 Classics to have 3 Dual and 2 Singles for the ultimate setup. Discrete Opamps will go through a 50 hour burning period.


    Equipment wise, I own/have owned HT Omega Claro Halo, K702, HD650, K550, Beats Studio, SE535 Reshelled (CIEM), Xiaomi Piston 2, TTPOD T1-E, Xuelin ihifi960, Blox BE03, Brainwavz S5, Bravo Audio Ocean, PreSonus HP4, Racoon SG-300. AT120usb, Denon 110 MC cartridge, Cambridge Audio Azur 651p


    My newer equipment tend to lean more towards speakers equipment.Pro-Ject 9.1, Gram Amp 2 Special Edition, Anthem Integrated 225, Totem Forest, Hifiman HE400i, Burson Air, Chord Mojo, and AK120.


    So I get a good sense of what I can get in terms of sound quality for the extra cost. My favourite combination is Anything going into my Anthem 225 and coming out of Totem Forest. Source is very important, and most of my music is in FLAC, and I am slowly building up a decent vinyl collection.


    Since the Burson Play is made for the PC market, I am going to approach this product from 2 directions.

    1. Gaming and Movies
    • Game will be World of Tanks

    • Movie will be Fate of the Furious
    1. Opamp switching audiophile grade DAC + Amp
    • Songs from different genres using V6 Classics Vs.

    • || Chord Mojo

    • || Conductor Air
    Songs tested were in FLAC unless otherwise stated


    Play with V6Classics vs Chord Mojo

    FLAC - Foobar - DAC/Amp - K702 with new foam earpads and new mps x-7 cable.

    MIA - Paper Planes

    The bass is tighter and deeper in the Play

    The detail retrieval is very similar from both units. They both present the gunshots, finger snaps, cash register noise etc. very realistically.

    The soundstage/presentation is definitely better coming from the Play. The spatial imaginary is more accurate while giving this song an intimate/close presentation. The play removes a veil that is present on the Mojo.

    Evanescense - Tourniquet

    After repeated listenings, I keep coming back to the same findings from Paper Planes.

    Fleetwood Mac - Dreams (Alternate Mix)

    The Play has a significantly blacker background, which contributes to a clearer soundstage.

    The Mojo makes Stevie Nicks sound a little softer, which is perceived as a little more vulnerable. That attribute is actually my favourite part of her voice.

    The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall - Wishing you were here again

    The quieter backdrop really gives the song a better presentation and more detail. One thing I noticed on the Play and not on the Mojo as much/at first was that I can hear the singer take her breathe before every strong part.

    I find that the play is significantly better than the Mojo, therefore; the Play will replace the Mojo as my daily driver.


    I decided to put the Mojo into Line-Out and use the Burson Soloist as the headphone amp to see if that helps with the sound. It absolutely did by opening up the soundstage, and improving the details. This in my opinion put the 2 units on equal footing with the Mojo/Soloist producing better background notes and synth spark/shine/pop, and the Play producing the most lush focals.


    Play with V6C vs Conductor Air

    Eagles - Hotel California in dsd64

    The resolving power of both units are very similar. The difference I can find between the 2 units is that the Play can produce bass better. The bass guitar sounds much more prominent, instead of hiding behind rest of the instruments. The bass drum also punches harder and deeper.

    David Guetta - Sexy Bitch Ft. Akon

    Katy Perry - Dark Horse Ft. Juicy J

    To support the findings above, I listened to some bass heavy songs. There is definitely greater bass extension from the Play. The only way to add more bass is to increase the overall volume, which increases rest of the spectrum to ear bleeding levels.


    So I did test the Play in gaming and movie performance. To be honest, I have never valued audio in gaming very much. This test did reveal that the Play is significantly better than my Alienware laptop’s on-board DAC, which we all would’ve assumed. Explosions and ammo ricochets were more realistic in World of Tanks. However, that did not significant enriched my gaming experience. Since I'm not a FPS gamer, I cannot fully judge how well the Play can produce fatigue-free 3D positioning for hours of gaming. In Fate of the Furious, I had similar findings. I even bore myself writing about it. The Play makes everything sounds better, but I look for amazing visuals and story line in movies. In musicals, that would change everything; I would be looking at it from an audiophile perspective. Since I have the privilege of owning a home theatre setup, I like to enjoy big action films with the thundering roar of a subwoofer.

    So from an audiophiles perspective, I honestly believe that the Play with V6Cs are a great value, near end game DAC/headphone amp combo. I’m sure that systems that cost several thousand dollars can beat it, but how many of us working Joes or budding audiophiles or students can afford those? For me, these will be my daily driver because I do not own a better combo. I guess I shouldn’t conclude the review without discussion how good I think the unit looks. It’s simple, and elegant in my opinion. The black goes well with all my existing audio equipment, and the interior build quality just looks confidence inspiring.

    I will post my findings about the V6Vivids when I get a chance in the future.


    It’s the future guys, and Im here to compare the Vivid to the Classic in the Burson Play

    Taylor Swift - Enchanted


    Very analytical, the instrument separation is very good, and detail is incredible. Very 3 dimensional. It does in a way make all the parts a little distracting.

    V6V Duals and V6C Singles

    Right away I noticed the detailed guitar notes are pulled back to let the vocals shine. Just a better presentation. Somehow the volume is quieter than all V6Vs.

    V6C Duals and V6V Singles

    The better matchup with very good detail and intimate vocals. Similar detail, witch a more cohesive presentation.


    Lacking a little detail, good vocals with absolutely no fatigue. Soundstage is still good.

    The Cranberries - Ode to My Family


    Most detail to instruments. Percussion detail is just mesmerizing. Hard to just enjoy the music

    V6V Duals and V6C Singles

    More bass than all V6C

    V6C Duals and V6V Singles

    Gives more details and energy to guitar. Opens up the soundstage. Vocal layering more noticeable. Slightly louder. Vocal more fatiguing than all V6C


    Very intimate vocals, with good guitar accompaniment. Warmer presentation. Smokey lounge feel.

    Massive Attack - Angel


    Deep and powerful bass, Piercing details.

    V6V Duals and V6C Singles

    Slightly less powerful bass than all V6V.

    V6C Duals and V6V Singles

    Good details, warms it just enough to soften the parts that would cause listening fatigue


    Just a veil that removes too much energy from the music.

    From the above 3 songs, I have determined that I definitely want the V6V singles in my Burson Play. I also decided that I don’t want All V6V or V6C, I’m going to try to find the best combination.

    Next, I listened to a few songs to determine which duals I will use.

    After introducing Modest Mouse - Float On, and The Killers - Somebody Told Me into the rotation; I began to see whether I want the V6V in I/V Stage and V6C in LP Stage, or Vice Versa. So my conclusion is that I prefer the V6C in IV Stage and V6V in LP Stage. I love detail, but with All V6V Duals, it is just a little too harsh in comparison. So with the V6C in I/V Stage, I get all the details while rounding out the highs to enable longer listening sessions.

    One thing I noticed with the Play is that if you have one opamp not fully plugged it, there’s a little relay inside that prevents it from running.
      raoultrifan likes this.
  4. ostewart
    Powerful and fun DAC/Amp
    Written by ostewart
    Published Oct 18, 2017
    Pros - Op-Amp rolling, versatility, power and overall sound quality
    Cons - no analogue or optical inputs
    Firstly I would like to thank Burson Audio for selecting me as the first member of the UK tour, I made sure to give the unit plenty of hours of play before the final review.

    *disclaimer: This sample was provided on loan for the purpose of writing a review, no incentive was given to write a favourable review. All opinions expressed are my own subjective findings.

    Gear Used: HP Laptop > Curious USB cable > Play (V6 Vivid and Classic op-amps) > German Maestro GMP400 / Ultrasone Edition 8 EX and others...


    Tech specs:
    Extensive info can be found on the product page: https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/play/

    Play Basic - NE5532 X 3, NE5543 X 2 - $299

    Play with V5i - V5i-Dual X 3, V5i-Single X 2 - $399*

    Play with V5 - V5-Dual X 3, V5-Single X 2 - $475*

    Play with V6 Vivid - V6-Vivid-Dual X 3, V6-Vivid-Single X 2 - $549*

    Play with V6 Classic - V6-Classic-Dual X 3, V6-Classic-Single X 2 - $549*

    *All models above the Basic come with the remote. Prices include shipping and are in USD.

    Build quality and Accessories:
    As this is part of a tour, it did not come in retail packaging I don’t think, as it came in a clear plastic box. The unit itself is quite industrial looking, with an all black chassis that feels hefty and solid. On the front you have the volume knob, LED volume numbers, 6.3mm headphone output and also a 3.5mm microphone input. On the back you have the regular power input, a power input for jumpers from a PC PSU if you want to mount it in your PC, RCA outputs and a USB input. Everything is extremely well finished and put together with tight sockets and minimal play.

    Accessory wise you get a USB cable, remote control and RCA cables. This is a tour unit so additional V6 Classic op-amps are included, the V6 Vivid are pre-installed in this unit. With the retail version you get a panel for the back of your PC with RCA jumpers so you can still use the pre-amp output whilst mounted in a PC.



    This Amp/DAC is aimed at those who want the best sound out of their PC, hence why Burson made it the size it is, so you can mount it in a PC case. It also has a dedicated microphone input, which is again aimed at gamers, and provides a high quality microphone input.

    I will be using the Play as a regular Amp/DAC with headphones for music playback. Now the Play is a full class A amp (runs warm) with built in DAC, it has no analogue inputs to allow you to only use the amp section. It also only has USB input, which is a shame as an optical port would have made it even better.

    Now this Amp/DAC can output a lot of power, so should be able to drive most headphones out there with ease. It also has RCA outputs so you can use it as a DAC/Pre-amp, the RCA volume is changed with the knob and is not a fixed line-out.


    You get a remote control which allows you to control volume along with muting the device; you can also mute it by pressing the volume knob in. The volume control is digital and has 99 steps, the gain is fairly high, as is the output impedance (8 Ohms) so it is really made for full-size headphones and not sensitive IEM’s.

    One major feature of the Play is the ability to roll op-amps with ease; the unit comes with a hex key to open it up and allows you easy access to change the op-amps. Also the circuit is designed to get the most out of Bursons own series of op-amps.


    V6 Vivid:

    The Burson play leans more to the fun side of sound with the Vivid op-amps, not being a purely reference amp. It has plenty of power and punch yet also finesse; the finer details are not smeared or hidden. It is a dynamic and punchy sounding amp, allowing you to hear excellent detail without sounding overly harsh. Separation is excellent and the soundstage is very enveloping allowing you to easily pinpoint instruments within the soundstage.

    There is never any sense that you are missing out on anything in the recording, there is plenty of air around instruments without sounding detached. With the V6 Vivid the sound is transparent but not strictly flat and neutral, it doesn’t want to be either. It wants you to enjoy the music without trying to analyse it.

    As I said with the V6 Vivid it is a more dynamic and punchy sound, more direct and fun adding a little bottom end presence which works wonders with my GMP400’s.


    V6 Classic:
    With the V6 Classic vocals are upfront and intimate, you get a bit more of an intimate sound with a bit less air but you get a little extra smoothness. Again the details are there, but not as up front and exciting as the Vivid, the sound is a little more laid back but intimate. The bass is smoother and has less visceral punch, instead stays more in line with the recording. Vocals are the focus here.

    I find the V6 Classic to sound more linear and balanced but with a little added smoothness, the soundstage is still wide but instruments have a softer edge to them, the highs are not as exciting but still extend effortlessly.

    I find the V6 Classic to be less exciting but more towards my preferred sound, it has a very detailed and well balanced sound with a hint of smoothness, they work well with all genres and sound excellent.

    Microphone input: The input works really well and is excellent quality, no issues here and an excellent feature for gamers: https://vocaroo.com/i/s0pisjvHvJpL


    Well what can I say; it does what it says on the tin but with added functionality that other DAC/Amps do not offer for this price. The amp section is extremely powerful and can be tuned with different op-amps and offers an excellent platform for people looking to test various op-amp configurations. It has a microphone input on the front for gamers, and can be neatly mounted in a PC tower.

    With the V6 Vivid op-amps you get a very dynamic and crisp sound that is extremely fun to listen to, with the V6 Classic op-amps you get a more neutral sound but still with a hint of smoothness and intimacy that is more in line with my personal preferences.

    The Burson play really is an excellent DAC/Amp, that is versatile and works really well with most full-size headphones. For the price it is a highly recommended product for those looking for a desktop DAC/Amp. I personally would have liked to have seen optical and analogue inputs, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

    Sound Perfection Rating: 9/10 (no analogue or optical inputs)
      raoultrifan and selvakumar like this.


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