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Burson Swing

  1. DjBobby
    Sleeping Beauty
    Written by DjBobby
    Published Jun 27, 2019
    Pros - Smooth, creamy, non-digital sound.
    Plenty of possible settings.
    Upgradeable with op-amps for the full potential.
    Cons - Tiny display. Lack of balanced out. The case doesn't win the design award.

    I would like to thank the Australian Burson Audio Company, for sending me their Swing DAC and digital preamp, in exchange for an honest review. After previously having a chance to review several of their products, I was particularly interested in their standalone dac to be paired with their fabulous headphone amp called the Fun. The Fun is a pure analogue class A headphone amp with plenty of power, which I've been successfully pairing with different dacs. Their new Swing dac shares the same design and blends perfectly with the Fun, either on your desktop, or even in the PC case.

    The Swing came in a new, shiny box with red letters, a fresh and welcome design change as compared to previous, rather spartanic packaging. There is also a new design of the cables, both the USB and the RCA cables are now blue mantled.

    The Swing is a full featured dac offering USB, Toslink and Coaxial inputs, with the USB input being doubled. Also it has finnaly gotten a long wished fixed dac output which can be switched with the variable pre out. For using it as a dac, I highly recommed using it on dac out, for the highest resolution. Speaking of resolution, ESS Technology's latest ES9038q2M chip offers in a combination with the latest XMOS usb receiver, resolutions up to the 768Khz/32bits and native DSD up to 512. As the OSX is not able to process natively DSD, Apple users must switch to DoP, which then goes up only to 256. This is still respectably high, being 4 times the basic DSD resolution.

    Beside the standard USB input on the back, there is additional USB-c input on the front plate, which is very handy to quickly connect your smartphone or dap. Contrary to some fellow Headfiers who wrote having a problem with this input, mine was working like a charm. I have connected my iPhone without any trouble with the Swing through the front usb-c, after previously switching the input in the menu.

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    The basic version of the Swing comes without a remote and with default opamps, featuring 2 x NE5532 and 2 x Ne5534 and costs $399. Upgrading the Swing with their V6 opamps, raises the price quite steeply to $699.

    There are plenty of settings to play with, with a menu controlled by two buttons on the front and very tiny display. I have already criticized this miniature display when reviewing the Playmate. Well, the Swing uses the same one, the letters are microscopic and really not easy on the eyes. I am personally not into the balanced out, but can imagine that there are some folks out there who might have it on their wish list. It started to get common nowadays, you get the balanced feature even in low cost Chinese dacs.

    I got the Swing with the latest firmware with the de-emphasis switched to off and I would strongly advise to leave it so. There is also a DPLL setting, separate for the PCM and the DSD. By default, it is on the highest setting, which makes a secure lock of the incoming signal but which sacrifice the audio quality. Setting it lower will make the jitter performance better but you may risk the day unlocking or loosing the connection or with your source. In my case, I didn’t have any problems using Audirvana and Tidal HiFi on MacBook Pro as a source, to set the PCM DPLL on the lowest setting and DSD DPLL on medium, which increased the audio quality and transparency.

    There are plenty of filters to play with. Listening through the headphones, the differences are very small, only when connected to floor-standing loudspeakers, I could hear the differences more pronounced. Default setting is Apodizing filter AP FAST, which is jack of all trades. For listening with the headphones I preffered Minimum Phase Fast or MP Fast, and with the loudpeakers the Linear Fast or LP Fast, which offered better instruments localization.

    I was very curious to test the Swing compared to several dacs I have around, but mostly as a natural born partner to the Fun amp, as compared to Burson’s all-in-one Playmate.

    The Playmate costs $399 – 749
    The Swing/Fun combo costs $698 – 1098.

    Is the price difference of $299 – 349 worth it? Is it a huge leap between the Playmate and the Swing/Fun combo? And finally, is the additional charge for the upgrade with the V6 opamps worth the improvement?

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    How does it sound:

    First impression after listening to the cold Swing was that it is smooth, rounded and mellow. I could not believe I was listeing to the Sabre dac chip, which in my previous experience always sounded analytical and somewhat dry. It was obvious that the Burson’s techs did some tweaking to escape the ESS Sabre rather bright sound. The Swing sounds, creamy, buttery, dark and absolutely non-digital. I have listened for hours without any fatigue. It was a big transformation of the sound I have expected to hear from an ESS chip based dac. Now, the impression you get when listening the Swing, is like when applying the software upsampling. Closest resemblance coming to my mind was like setting the Audirvana’s SoX SRC to 4 x upsampling. I can only guess, that there might have been some internal SRC either in the chip or additionally programmed by Burson. Also there were certain tracks where the Swing was much reminiscent of my Chord Mojo, without later’s soundstage depth.

    When using the notorious AKG K701 or Beyer’s DT880 which could be very hot in the treble, I had a feeling of smoothness like using a tube amp. Also some aggressive recordings of Shostakovich symphonies were saved with Swing's laid back approach.

    The soundstage was medium, not overly deep nor very wide and instruments localization was not always spot-on. Treble was mellow and round but it lacked the ultimate zing, like there was a little veil on it. The mids were very Marantz like, singing and creamy and the bass was pleasant but somewhat rounded, without a punch and didn’t extend quite to the sub-bass region. This were all my impressions with the default op-amps and I was very curious to hear how will the Swing react to different op-amps upgrades. Mostly what I was looking for was, is there a potential for a better soundstage, more extension at the top and the bottom, and more dynamic and less laid back sound.

    I had few Burson’s V6 opamps laying around, both Classics which I mostly prefer and the Vivids, so I started the long listening journey using all the combinations of the opamps.

    - All Vivids

    - All Classics

    - Vivids in the I/V and Classics in the LP Gain

    - Classics in the I/V and Vivids in the LP Gain

    Normally I would have sticked with the Classics only, as I have previously done with the Play, the Fun, the Bang and the Playmate, but this time I had a feeling that I will be more looking into the Vivid direction, as I needed to revive and awaken the Swing’s somewhat laid back sound.

    After switching back and forth, it became very soon clear that the Swing benefits highly with any of the above combination of opamps! From grayish it turned to technicolor with many layerings and instrument colors. The soundstage got on depth, if not much on width. Width was more or less the same, but the instruments of the orchestra appeared closer or more away from the listener’s position. There was a shimmer again in the cymbals and all of the sudden I started hearing very clearly the triangle in Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances which was somewhat muted with default op-amps. Put on some Mahler’s symphonies which are tough being overcrowded with instrumentation, and the Swing kept a secure pace with clear positioning of the instruments. With the all-Vivids or in the I/V stage only, the sub-bass went deeper, but the overall sound was a little bit distant. The best combination was the “Everest” one, with the Classics in the I/V and the Vivids in LP/Gain which was faster and more dynamic than all-Classics and more musically engaging than all-Vivids. The sleeping beauty just got awakened.

    Coming back to my previous questions.

    Is the additional charge for the upgrade with the V6 opamps worth the improvement? Absolutely. With the default op-amps the Swing is a fair performer, a smooth operator, but it doesn’t stand out. It gets from me 4 stars. With the op-amps upgrade, the sleeping beauty is awakened, getting 5 stars.

    Is it a huge leap between the Playmate and the Swing/Fun combo?
    The Swing/Fun combo is more authorative and more “high-end” sounding than the Playmate, but how much so is another question. I would describe all the improvements with slightly. There are lot of slightly better things in the Swing. I would say, I you need a standalone dac to be used with the amp and speakers and you need a coaxial input, go for the Swing. If you don’t need the coax and you plan to listen only with the headphones, I would go for the Playmate, which is a hell of a deal.

    Is the price difference between the Playmate and the Swing/Fun of $299 – 349 worth it?
    This is a very subjective and personal decision. As I previously wrote, the Playmate is very strong competitor and it is a not easy decision. What I can say with certainty is, that for me the upgraded Swing is definitely better than the Playmate, but between the Playmate with the V6 and the Swing basic with default opamps, I prefer the Playmate.


    The Swing is for me a sleeping beauty, forgive me that I am using this analogy again. In default opamp setup it is a decent performer, which turns into a beast when upgraded with the higher end opamps. It has plenty of professional tweaking settings to tailor the sound to your preferences. The critic point is only the bonsai sized display which is really not easy to read and somewhat spartanic written manual, which doesn’t offer a burst of information.

    With the higher grade op-amps, in my case the V6 Classics/Vivids combo, it lives highly up to the name of the House of Burson.


      Mij-Van and raoultrifan like this.
  2. Peddler
    Awesome DAC/Pre-Amp - so addictive!
    Written by Peddler
    Published Jun 26, 2019
    Pros - Sound quality, small, silent - no noise floor, fine volume control
    Cons - Rear mounted power switch, no remote volume control, small display.
    Introduction - About Me.

    I have been a keen music enthusiast for many years now. In the past I have owned a rather nice analogue based system comprising of the following:-

    Logik DM-101 Turntable - Linn Basik LVX Tonearm - Nagaoka MP11 Boron Cartridge - Musical Fidelity Integrated Amp - B&W Loudspeakers - Pioneer PD8700 Turntable-based CD Player and all the required spikey-stands, Sound Organisation Turntable Shelf and all the other goodies that were really required to make an analogue system sing and dance. I loved it and spent many happy hours listening to music (along with countless hours tweaking the system in order to get the last possible amount of performance out of it). Whilst I must admit that most of the time I found this very enjoyable - I much prefer the virtually unlimited music available via Google Play Music and love the way I can listen to multiple albums without having to get off my lazy butt.

    Although pretty much all of the components in that system were purchased used, it was still a considerable amount of money - especially when compared with what you can get these days for the same kind of expenditure.

    However, marriage, kids, thinner walls and a less than ideal set up for loudspeaker listening has resulted in me using headphones for the bulk of my listening over the last couple of decades. I have a fairly embarrassing amount of headphones in my collection - and I really like them all. Recently however I started to resurrect my interest in loudspeaker-based listening and, thanks to Burson Audio, I think I have a far better system in place than my old analogue system (even though it costs a fraction of the price) - sounds much better and is certainly easier to operate.

    It's only fair to point out a number of points before I continue with the review:-

    • I'm 56 years old - I'm well aware that my hearing isn't what it was when I was in my teens. In all fairness to myself I recently informally tested my frequency range using a pair of high quality headphones and a lossless test file and was pleasantly surprised by how much of the higher frequencies I can still hear - so all is not lost.

    • Although I did love the smooth analogue sound my old system produced, I think digital has more than matured to the point where analogue is pretty much for the hard-case enthusiasts now (I know, I know, heretic!). Whilst early digital systems sounded like a bucket of bolts being shaken hard some of the time, even my phone can produce an arguably more accurate sound quality than my old analogue system.

    • I am of the opinion that even some of the more humble-priced pieces of digital electronics such as APTX/AAC based bluetooth headphones and inexpensive MP3 players are capable of producing remarkable sound quality compared with older systems. I also firmly believe that many of these cheaper Chinese-made items such as MP3 players and bluetooth headphones/earphones can sound just as good as those from the more well-known manufacturers such as Sony, JVC and the like. You really are paying for the name a lot of the time.

    • Much of my listening these days consists of streamed content (with some MP3 files permanently stored on my phone for when I'm out and about. I'm a very enthusiastic portable user and wouldn't dream of walking any significant distance without wearing some portable headphones and rocking out to some tunes. When at home, I use music streamed from the brilliant little Chromecast Audio when listening through loudspeakers - whilst I know that there are better alternatives out there, I tend to listen to the compressed MP3 content for much of the time but feel that the next step up in sound quality for me will have more to do with the content (lossless rather than lossy) than making any minor alterations to my sound system.

    Burson Swing - Externals

    Pictured above Burson Bang power amp.

    The Swing is the same size as their Bang power amp and Fun headphone amp. They're all designed so that you could fit them inside a regular PC case like an internal CD ROM drive, be fed with power from your PC motherboard and, where appropriate, have back-plates for connecting external cables to the back of your PC. I’m not sure whether using this configuration would have an effect on the overall sound quality (differences in power supply for example), but I used the Burson Swing and Bang in a simple stack configuration. I must admit, I’m not a fan of the power switches being on the rear - but that’s kinda nitpicking.

    The Swing features a tiny LCD screen which is used to display various modes and settings. Used in conjunction with the volume control you can change input, output and various digital settings. Unfortunately the text display is too small for me to see without resorting to glasses - ah well, the joys of growing old! The volume control can be pressed in to select functions and mute the sound when playing music. Whilst on the subject of the volume control I have to say that this is one of the nicest digital controls I have ever used - offering incredibly fine control over the volume - nice touch Burson!

    The connections at the rear appear to be very high quality - certainly using the high quality interconnect cables supplied with the Bang produced a very tight fit - no worries about loss of signal there. Everything about the Swing gives the impression of being of the highest quality - like the Bang and Fun. Also, like the Bang and Fun, you can upgrade the internal Op-Amps to potentially shape and improve the sound quality. Burson even supply an allen key to make it easier to open them up - another nice touch. I personally haven’t opened any of them up - and it’s fair to say that at this point in time, I’m more than happy with their base configuration.

    This Burson stack really feels like the ultimate in micro-audio systems. Minimalist yet functional. Subtle in their looks but power where and when you need it - no flashing lights - no wireless bluetooth thingies - no unnecessary features and, unfortunately with the base configuration, no remote control. In all fairness this isn’t a problem with my setup because I can control the volume remotely from my phone or tablet.

    I'm using the Swing in conjunction with the Chromecast Audio - connected via optical TOSLINK cable and the high quality interconnects supplied by Burson to connect the Swing to the Bang. This makes for a very elegant and tiny solution for my bedroom listening.

    Sound Quality

    Well this is what it’s all about. The first thing I feel that I should mention is that the basic sound character is completely flat and transparent with regard to frequency range. There’s no excessive bass output, no pronounced treble - everything appears pretty much ruler-flat on my system.

    I must admit I was somewhat sceptical that using additional outboard processing of a digital signal could make that much difference to the rather impressive output from my LG V20 phone. I was also sceptical that I would be able to actually hear any difference - especially when you take into account the points raised earlier. Well I was utterly wrong on both counts.

    With the Burson Swing the timbre of each instrument simply comes alive. It doesn't seem to make a difference if the instrument is electronic or purely acoustic, it’s size, presence and acoustic character is resolved in a way that I’ve truly never experienced before in my home system. This effect isn’t subtle either - every single track I ran through the system clearly portrayed the music effortlessly. The last time I experienced anything even close to this was when I tried out the Etymotic ER4P headphones for the first time and experienced their stability when representing the stereo soundstage and placement of the performers. The Swing offers this degree of stability to the soundstage and, in my opinion, even more detail than the Ety’s offered. It's almost like every recording I have has been re-processed and re-mastered - that's kinda cool.

    Whilst I'm well aware that many recordings contain pretty much artificial image placement - generated through a mixing desk by the recording engineer rather than carefully placed microphones, it doesn't really make a difference as long as the playback system is capable of resolving it in a pleasing manner. One track I often use as a test for information retrieval is Young Lust’’ by Pink Floyd from the album The Wall. The amount of dialogue coming from the TV set in the background, the ‘dummy head’ effect of the performers moving around the stage and the subtle echo effects of the vocals. The dynamic effect of the track change to ‘One Of My Turns’ really put a sound system through its paces - the Swing passed this with flying colours.

    One thing I think I should point out is that the Burson Swing and Bang combination isn't 'impressive sounding' when you first hear it. What I mean by this is that the overall presentation of the music is very relaxing and non-fatiguing. It's the sort of sound quality that you can listen to for hours - the remarkable detail being extracted from the music doesn't wear you down - quite the opposite. This detail is presented in such a way that you could focus on just one specific instrument if you wished - everything is sufficiently separated from everything else in such a way as to make analytical listening a truly effortless experience. This is what appealed to me about the Etymotics - the ability to relax whilst also focussing on the music. I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone - but it does to me.


    Superb sound quality.
    Compact footprint.
    Very well made - good quality sockets.
    Totally silent noise-floor.
    Excellent digital volume control.
    Fixed and variable outputs - can be used as a digital pre-amp.

    Cons - nitpicking perhaps but I suppose it has to be said:

    Power switches on the rear.
    No remote control as standard.
    Tiny display.

    That’s it - in all fairness the lack of a remote is pretty much a non-issue with the setup I have because I have complete control over the volume with my phone or tablet. The tiny display is also a bit of a non-issue for me because I’m only operating one source so once this is set you can forget about it. The power switch placement does annoy me (slightly) but it’s definitely a first-world problem.

    In conclusion I have to say that I’m very impressed with the Burson Swing. I definitely think that this represents a significant step up for me sound wise - especially when paired with the Burson Bang. I’m seriously considering upgrading my loudspeakers next in order to get the most out of this combination. A definite 5-stars - very highly recommended.
  3. DarKu
    Burson Swing DAC review
    Written by DarKu
    Published May 23, 2019
    Pros - Impressive frequency response and tonal balance
    Natural sounding, grain-free with a good flow
    Wide soundstage and good depth, not forward at all
    Thunder speed and impact
    Lots of features, inputs and outputs
    Awesome price to performance ratio!
    Cons - Basic version lacks a remote
    2019 seems quite busy for Burson Audio, first release of the year was the extraordinary Playmate and now they offer a much-needed dedicated DAC and digital preamp called Swing.

    I still remember listening to the Burson Fun and Bang and thinking that what they really need is a dedicated DAC for those units and this is how Swing came to be. As good as DAC+Amp combos are they can’t quite match separate units, Burson Play and Playmate were really good, outstanding even if you take into consideration their price points, but if you want a higher performing sound from the Burson family, Swing should be that answer.

    Inside the Box

    Unboxing experience is excellent! Swing came double boxed with extra foam for a good protection. Inside you’ll find: the Swing, an USB cable, a switching power supply, a power cable, a high-quality RCA interconnect cable with nice Pailics RCA jacks, an extra USB cable with a 4pin connector at the other end (connected directly to a desktop motherboard), a RCA out back-plate for a desktop computer, the premium V6 versions are also having a nice remote control, I’ve have the basic version so no remote for me. Swing also comes with an extra mini fuse in case the preinstalled out burns, a pleasant surprise.


    Design & Build Quality

    Fit and finish is pretty good, sadly it is being offered only in a black anodized aluminum case, would love to see a raw aluminum case as well.

    As their previous devices it is quite small and lightweight, at about 1.5 kg with a case that measures only 210 mm x 145 mm x 45 mm it is very easy to integrate it into tiny work spaces and offices. The final output stage is bolted directly to the case, so it will work as a big heatsink to better dissipate the heat. Swing is much cooler to the touch compared to their previous designs as it has a lower power consumption and will dissipate less heat. I think it looks nice and minimalistic, I just wish it had a slightly bigger LCD screen as listening to speakers from a distance and operating the menu with the remote is troublesome, unless you are eagle-eyed.

    Inputs & Outputs

    There are three digital inputs on the back: USB, Optical and Coaxial, there is also a second USB type C on the front panel in case you’ll want to use your smartphone or your DAP as a source. Swing can be powered by the external switching power supply or by your PC power supply, there is also a On/Off switch and two analog outputs: a clean 2V line-out and a volume controlled line-out – basically transforming the Swing into a digital preamp. I’m really glad Swings offers two line-outputs as comparing two integrated or headphone amps is much easier this way. On the front panel there is also a small LCD screen, a digitally controlled volume potentiometer and a menu button.


    Under the Hood

    As the Play, Playmate, Fun and Bang, Swing can also be integrated inside your desktop PC in place of a 5.25” drive bay. You have two options when it comes to feeding the Swing: the external switching PSU or your PC PSU, but you’ll need a powerful and stable PSU since Swing will drain 12V and up to 5A of power.

    My desktop computer doesn’t have drive bays so I only used the supplied external PSU, which worked really well. In general, I am not a big fan of the switching power supplies because of weak dynamics and dirty background but since Burson developed their legendary Max Current Power Supply inside their Swing, the switching PSU becomes a non-issue anymore, I really like the Burson’s approach.

    Of course, the Swing will sing using a very high-performance DAC chip, it is being powered by a stereo ES9038Q2M chip that is considered top class, it is not the 8-channel PRO version, I’m OK with that, will tell you why in our comparison at the end of the article.

    Swing is also using a high-performance USB interface: XMOS XU-208 that is also used in much more expensive designs, even my own 1800 USD Matrix X-Sabre PRO is using it, which I find quite interesting. Of course, the XMOS interface is free of weird noises, hum or any interference via USB, so that is a good sign.


    High quality audio grade electrolytic capacitors from ELNA are spotted here and there but none of them are in the signal path!

    Toshiba discrete transistors can also be spotted, Dale military grade transistors as well, a very well-made DAC from the technical point of view.

    As the Playmate, Swing is also using Burson made Max Current Power Supply (MCPS), this one overcomes the issues of both transformer based linear power supplies and conventional switching power supplies. Of course, this MCPS is tuned to work in class-A for a black as nigh background.

    Swings has four DIP8 socketed op-amps, I am however rocking the Basic, east-European friendly version that is powered by two NE5532 single op-amps and by another two NE5534 dual op-amps. All four are DIP8 versions and can be swapped with higher performance op-amps like Burson’s own V6 Classic and V6 Vivid offerings. The Basic one can be had for 400 USD and the most advanced one for 700 USD, a 300 USD difference for the upgraded op-amps. If you want the most advanced version, here is a tip for you, put in your cart the Basic version and separately a pair of single V6 and a pair of dual V6 op-amps and you will save exactly 100 USD with that wombo-combo! You’ll thank me later.


    Menu Options

    I’m glad Burson opted for an LCD screen on the front panel, it will show important information as your volume level (for the preamp out), your selected output, your digital stream of PCM or DSD and the bitrate.

    Pushing the small button on the far-right enters the menu where a lot of settings can accessed as:

    1. You can select 4 digital inputs: USB type C, type B, Optical and Coaxial. I used USB type B and Optical input from my ChromeCast enabled TV, both worked excellent.

    2. You can select your output: DAC out or preamp out. If you select the preamp output the volume wheel will start working and on the display the volume setting will be displayed.

    3. You can select the pre level, basically a preamp gain: Low or High, I recommend the default High setting. For very sensitive active speakers you can use the Low setting.

    4. Selectable digital filters that are built-in directly in the ESS DAC chip. You can play with them to tailor the sound to your liking. There is a faint difference between them, I prefer the LP Fast by a small margin.

    5. DPLL for DSD and for PCM data streams, the higher the setting is the higher the jitter rejection will be, left it on high position.

    6. Emphasis – I’m glad it is on “Off” position by default. Putting it on “On” position will roll-off the treble by about 5dB at 10 kHz and by about 8dB at 20 kHz. I strongly recommend leaving it at “Off” position for the best performance and the most accurate frequency response.

    7. Reset all settings: self-explanatory

    Thumbs-up team Burson for implementing a cool menu and few must-have settings.

    Now, let’s get to the most interesting part, shall we?


    Sound Performance

    I. Using the Swing in a headphone-based system

    I first used the Swing with few of my headphone amps obviously connected to some sensitive IEMs and desktop class headphones. Since Swing has two outputs it is really easy comparing two headphone amps on the same DAC, in this regard it is a reviewer’s dream.

    First thing I noticed is that it has a very black background, free of any type of noise, even my sensitive IEMs didn’t pick up any noise. To some degree it has an even cleaner presentation that the all in-one Playmate has, and should I remind you as stated in my review, Playmate was already great with IEMs.

    This is obviously a Burson design if first thing that tickled my ears was a hard kicking, eardrum slamming presentation. If you think an ESS based design should sound on the dry side with lots of digitus and harsh treble, think again. I really don’t know what secret sauce Burson is pouring over its designs but they always sound so engaging, so alive, natural and hard kicking, seems that Swing is no exception to that rule.

    Carefully selected analog parts plus a very revealing chip yielded the best of both worlds, it has great resolution and transparency levels and lots of grunt, slam and an easy-going natural presentation.

    Swing is mostly linear and has an excellent frequency range, without cutouts in the lower or upper registers, from lowest base to upper treble there is definition and clear outline of every note. I said mostly because I believe the mid-bass and the midrange is a bit on the warmer side to always infuse a little bit of joy and euphoria to the listener.

    Depth is in the big boy category with excellent pin-point imaging for a very 3D sound around the listener.

    Since soundstage on headphones is not as easy to define as it is on speakers, I moved my listening to the living room.


    II. Using the Swing in a speaker-based system.

    My KEF LS50W are basically a 4-in-1 system consisting of a Hi-Res DAC, a streamer, a dual-mono amplifier and a pair of coaxial speakers. However, they offer a pair on RCA analog inputs, just in case I want to connect a better DAC to them and this is exactly what I did.

    My TV has a built-in Chromecast Audio and an optical output, so connecting to Swing was a 1-minute job streaming lossless files via Tidal.

    First thing that hit me was how much cleaner it sounded compared to the built-in Hi-Res DAC. Detail retrieval is certainly on a higher level and almost pulled to the extreme. Frequency response is just exceptionally reproduced, from the lowest base to the highest musical notes, everything is crystal clear, I’m easily spotting imperfections in the recordings, like a chair is being moved in the studio, like singers are moving their feet. Everything just becomes a simple game of imagination.

    Of course, the same speed and impact I’ve heard on headphones was very present here as well. Unlike other cheaper alternatives I recently covered (Loxjie D20 and xDuoo TA-10), Swing doesn’t have timing errors and has a high degree of precision.

    Listening to instrumental music mixed with some rock and folk tunes, everything sounded easy going and quite natural, neither syrupy, neither dry, with an exact dose of naturalness and technical precision.

    Listening to a fast and crowded recording I never felt that Swing is losing its pace, rhythm or timing, or that is chocking and mixes musical notes into a muddy audio blob, that will never happen.


    Every note is being played in its own air-bubble with a big void between them. Swing is not crowded or forward sounding and that is a good thing.

    I can rarely describe am ESS Sabre based DAC as being natural sounding, musical and a bit sweet, but Burson with their secret audio sauce is proving that everything is possible and Swing is an exception to that formula.

    In my opinion Swing has a very good tonal balance with a mix of technical prowess and musical enjoyment, it will never sound boring, dry, toneless and will never lack dynamics.

    Listening to some old rock tunes I was curious if the vintage and a bit distorted sound will be still intact and to my surprise it sounded as I remember it on much higher priced DACs. That analogue grain and flow was still intact, the imperfections of the recording are still there but those are not scratching my ears and are not screaming for my attention. I’m glad the soul of those recordings is still there.

    Passing through my ’90 electronica it was clear to me that impact and slam are again on a high level.

    I could not characterize it as lightning quick, more like thunder quick, but still everything is fast with excellent rise and decay of the notes. I started feeling the impact with my whole body not only with my ears.

    Fun factor is phenomenal and the mix created by the electric guitars and digital sounds is so well played, I can easily pick a single sound and focus my hearing only on it with ease.

    At last I can freely write about soundstage and its size. Music is spread not only in a 2D field, every note will have a X, Y and Z axle and you can feel and hear the distance between yourself and that note. Soundstage is on the wider side so I can look into and easily analyze every track and every individual sound. Sounds are reaching me with longer decays on speakers so I am having plenty of time analyzing the stage and nuance of every note.



    Burson Playmate Basic (400 USD) VS Burson Swing Basic (400 USD)

    I briefly compared the Burson Playmate Basic with the Burson Swing basic, both priced at 400 USD. Playmate is having also a headphone amp section; however, Swing is rocking an extra digital input (coaxial) and an additional line-out. Build quality wise both are identical and look the same.

    When it comes to sound performance the difference is really small but there is still a difference.

    Swing has a nicer frequency response and will extract more information up top, I’ve heard it on speakers and on headphones as well, especially in the upper treble Swing has just higher amount of information and it is just a smudge cleaner sounding. Playmate has a slight treble muddiness and with Swing that is completely gone.

    Listening on speakers the air bubbles of the notes are bigger on the Swing, not by much but noticeable. Apart from that, soundstage size and depth are equally impressive.

    Next test was even more interesting…


    Matrix X-Sabre PRO (1800 USD) VS Burson Swing Basic (400 USD)

    I am very familiar with my X-Sabre Pro and I know its presentation extremely well. This test was mainly done using my headphones since my headphone amp has two analog inputs and a simple switch to change between them. So, comparing two DACs was really easy, especially on a nice pair of revealing headphones.

    I started listening to the same track I listened previously and started flipping the switch, I volume matched both sources for a more critical listening.

    To my big surprise the difference was much smaller than I anticipated and in a blind listening test I might fail picking one from the other. The same natural, fast, impactful presentation was heard on both devices. Hell, even the detail retrieval was almost on the same level, it was on the same page for sure. X-Sabre Pro was ahead by just a hair!

    Speaking about naturalness and musicality Swing jumped ahead with just a better flow, it was really grain-free in the long run. X-Sabre Pro will still extract more information and will catch your attention more often and will not be as smooth and musical in the long run.

    Swing certainly didn’t sound 4.5 times worse than the Pro; both will complement each other and will be side-grades than unquestionable upgrades. This way a bit unexpected.

    Soundstage wise both sounded the same, so I again moved my listening tests to my living room and there I saw the biggest improvement on the X-Sabre Pro as it just sounded grander and deeper.



    So here we have it folks, a mighty sounding DAC and digital preamp at the cost of a nice pair of cables.

    I’m glad Burson finally released a standalone DAC in their line-up, they didn’t do it for about 8 years now, their last such device was the DA-160. Burson Fun and Bang users can easily sleep now as they have a new target on their radar.

    Swing in unquestionable an excellent performing DAC in a speaker-based on headphone-based system. As such, it’s an easy recommendation, at 400 USD it’s simply a must buy. Speaker users be warned though, the basic version does not have a remote control in the package and the LCD screen is fairly small, go with the upgraded version for that nice metallic remote.

    Burson Swing can be purchased directly from Burson Audio, here’s a link
    My video review can be found right here

    • Impressive frequency response and tonal balance
    • Natural sounding, grain-free with a good flow
    • Wide soundstage and good depth, not forward at all
    • Thunder speed and impact
    • Lots of features, inputs and outputs
    • Awesome price to performance ratio!
    • Basic version lacks a remote

    • DACs: Burson Swing & Playmate, Matrix X-Sabre Pro, Loxjie D20, xDuoo TA-10
    • Headphone Amps: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2, Erzitech Bacillus, Burson Playmate, xDuoo TA-10
    • Speakers: KEF LS50W
    • Headphones: Quad ERA-1, Sennheiser HD660S, Sennheiser Momentum 2, FiiO FA7, FH7
    • Cables: QED Reference XLR, Burson Cable+ PRO, Audioquest & Kimber interconnects, PS Audio power cables
  4. jon parker
    Burson Audio Swing Amp
    Written by jon parker
    Published Apr 21, 2019
    Pros - Subime natural 'true to life' tuning, 3D holographic imaging, Incredible Instrument separation, Cohesion, Balance,
    Cons - TBH its a struggle to find any 'cons' On occasion I would like a tad more low end punch but this is purely preference is not a fault of the BASA by any means
    Burson Audio Swing Pre-amp – Review

    Today I am happy to be reviewing the Burson Audio ‘Swing’ Pre-amp.
    To begin – what is it and what does it do?


    The BASA is a pre amp that features at its heart the mighty Sabre32/ESS9038 DAC chip, the most advanced dac chip in the world.


    Together with a Xmos USB receiver, Swing does PCM 32bit/768khz and DSD512 audio files with the highest possible precision. And it plays effortlessly with MS Windows, Apply OSX, iOS and Android devices. Apart from its top quality USB input, Swing also features a Toslink input, a coaxial input and a USB-C connector. From traditional CD transports to smartphones to gaming consoles such as the Xbox and the PlayStation, from music listening to gaming, this DAC goes with a swing!

    As if this wasn’t enough you also go Opamp rolling to compare and appreciate different sonic performance in your own comfort zone giving a valuable opportunity to develop listening preference and taste.

    Facilitating opamp rolling in all stages on the signal path, you can swing it your way.

    Also, Burson have developed a new power supply so as it states on the website:
    Our power supply revolution is in full swing!

    Burson-Swing-S3 - power.jpg

    The Burson Max Current Power Supply is the thumping heart of the this DAC. Debuted in the Burson Play, our proprietary MCPS overcomes the deficiencies of both traditional transformer-based linear power supplies and conventional switching power supplies. It redefines the size and performance ratio and it is the reason why Head-Fiers fell in love with the Play instantly.

    With Swing, we have a further enhanced MCPS. It delivers even cleaner power. Tuned to Class-A, music shines from a pitch-black background.


    [Disclaimer] - I have no affiliation with Burson and was loaned the amp for the duration of the review period only

    Introduction / Preamble

    It’s been a genuine pleasure spending some quality time with the Burson Pre-amp.

    As the Head-fi-er ‘Wiljen’ did such a great job showing what comes with the BASA and explaining the technical details I have focussed all my attention on the sound itself


    To this end I ran the pre-amp from a laptop via the supplied USB, through an O2 Objective Headphone Amp. The O2 is one of the most neutral, clean and quietest amps out there and as such proved a perfect medium to focus on what the Burson pre-amp could offer

    Mainly I use the Sennheiser HD 540 Reference 1 headphone for reviewing. It’s an [open back] headphone I am familiar with and is one of the best reference quality headphones ever made, certainly in terms of an exceptional true to life timbre – (something the engineers at Sennheiser were trying to create in the mid 1980’s)

    I must confess to having great respect for The Burson company and their philosophy. They clearly know what they are doing but they are not afraid to try new ideas based on what their ears tell them! They also offer their products for a reasonable price putting high end products within reach of most everyone. In other words, they are genuinely passionate about music and audio

    I would like to start with how I would like to end!

    by saying that Burson have knocked it out of the park with their ‘Burson Swing’ Pre-amp. They have somehow managed to achieve something very special with some rare qualities. Essentially they have managed to not only include ALL the qualities I would hope for in an ‘end game’ amp but also to make the music sound so natural to life that it makes me smile every moment I listen to the Swing. There are so many well made amps available these days that offer ‘this’ quality or ‘that’ quality but few that offer a feeling of such effortless naturalness! This expression is one that keeps coming to mind every time I relax into the beautifully presented world that the BASA offers

    The Sound - in General:

    As the fundamental function of an amp is delivering sound to ones ears I would like to begin to talk in general about the qualities of the Burson Swing

    Everyday I take a 30 minute nap. During that time I always listen to the same album; the Self-Titled ‘A Winged Victory for the Sullen’ a collaboration between Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie. Superficially it’s a very nice meditative Modern Classical album containing Dustin’s Solo grand piano amongst swirly rich synths, and sparse stringed instruments.

    On the surface this album sounds very nice…certainly a contender for one of the best ambient, post classical ever recorded [IMO] :wink: BUT there are a myriad of subtleties within the music that is only really revealed with ‘high end’ gear. Qualities such as the replication of various aspects of the instruments themselves, the subtle movements within the sound stage and the relationship between them as a whole

    I wanted to begin this review by talking in general about this particular piece music in part because there is no music that I am as intermate with than AWFTS and that, to be honest; the BSA has revealed an album I have never heard before!

    Timbre is something that really strikes me with the BASA. With this album the timbre of the piano is one of the best I have ever heard!

    In general when you hear a note on a piano there is the initial hit, then a decay and you have the particular sound that a piano has; a sound usually recorded in a certain way. But there are other things going on such as the resonance with the wood of the keys, the wood of the body, the strings and the mechanism of the playing itself, which unless you are up and personal you will likely never hear on a recording.

    This is part of the magic of the BASA. Somehow it seems to be able to pick up and present the timbre of acoustic instruments in a way which is just magical to not only hear but experience as well

    The P.R.a.T – Pace, Rhythm and Timing is phenomenal – Its not just that the BSA delivers the music technically, extremely well its more that it has that special feeling you get listening to a band playing live.

    There is something about live music that makes your heart sing. I find this same experience listening to the BSA. In that everything is done so well in the amp everything just sounds so ‘right’ that the audio disappears and you really are left just with the emotive impact of the music

    Stereo imaging is in a word - exceptional. Ever instrument has its own unique place not only in the sense of left and right but very much in a 3 dimensional sense.

    But what makes this truly exceptional is that it sounds so ‘right’ so ‘true’

    Every instrument sounds like an actual person is right next to you playing. Breathtakingly organic.

    There is not a huge soundstage in fact you could call it average but this is a very good thing because firstly it shows how good the separation and clarity of the instruments really is.

    Every instrument is in its own unique space to the degree you can effortlessly spend time with each or any one and enjoy ALL its qualities To equate how this feels - quickly moving over to the ‘Brandenburg Concertos’ by Café Zimmermann is like sitting in the middle of the orchestra on a summers evening whilst being in love!

    The Sound - in Particular:

    Listening to the album ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac. In this case a superb Reel to Reel rip in 24bit/96,000 and a few others to fine tune and share what I find with particular attributes of the BASA, good and bad

    ‘Second hand news’

    there is an acoustic guitar that plays quick little chords in the right channel. It is extraordinarily clean and clear in its own space. You can even hear that the guitar has a new set of strings! Now THAT is intimate!


    The bass guitar on this one comes across straight away as incredibly tight, clean with immediate decay. The female vocals here float in their own space. Again the acoustic guitar in the left channel reveals far more details and nuances than should be possible in the middle of a song!

    Its strikes you how everything on this recording has its own space and in that space you hear so clearly the attributes that each individual instrument has. Everything has a space, nothing dominates and yet as a whole there is an amazing cohesion.

    ‘Never going back again’

    I have a sound engineer colleague who uses the acoustic guitar into to this song as a standard to compare to for recording acoustic guitars. Ive heard in many different ways with different gear and headphones. Here it sounds more organic and 3D than I have ever heard.

    In fact all the music I hear from the BSA has an addictive 3D holographic imaging.

    ‘Go your own way’

    Perhaps most famous due to the unique drum signature. Here I find the first aspect to the sound that makes me pause – The drums are incredibly balanced and mix with everything else in the music very well but Im wondering if they could be louder or the low end more prominent, especially moving into the area of sub-bass. Im also hearing the cymbals have a very quick decay, maybe too quick so…

    On too some tracks I use to check drums and cymbals

    Joe Walsh ‘Country Fair’ SACD and Stevie Wonder – ‘Too High’ SACD

    With these two it seems that there is somewhat of a lack of extra sparkle. The decay is just about there for ‘Too High’ but it sounds very soft. The cymbals are not crashing with that specific ‘brassy-ness’ – they sound a tad muted – almost as if the cymbals are made of thick steel. I noticed also on the drums with ‘Country Fair’ there is not quite the expressive range of different frequencies from each of the various drums that I would like.

    Not a big deal and it is quite subtle but noticeable

    On the topic of the percussion. Moving to - Muddy Waters ‘Folk Singer’ 24/192 – One of the things the BSA does very well is pushing some air with the low end, giving a nice warmth life to the drums, and bass. I found this on a number of albums but not on all. Its only there when the recording calls for it.

    Over all I don’t exactly find anything lacking in the low end, there is no emphasis given to it. Everything in the mix has an equal chance to shine.
    In this sense I find there seems to be some roll off in the extremities of the highs and lows. Considering how good the music sounds over all though I would say this is part of BSA character rather than flaw.

    As far as vocals go both male and female vocals are always effortlessly presented in the mix in their own space with enough level never to have to compete or ever dominate the music.
    Another particularly intriguing quality of the BSA

    In general Jazz and Classical musical is recorded, mixed and mastered with a lot more care than your average pop or rock record. Its clear that the BSA loves and really comes alive when given quality audio, especially with more acoustic based Jazz and Classical.

    If I start talking about how well the BSA presents classical music then this review would go on for many more pages. To summarise: Listening to classical music through the BSA is a profound and moving experience. I have never heard classical music outside of a live event to sound this true to life and just SO natural and organic. In terms of sound-stage you find yourself inside the orchestra with the acoustic natural material of the instruments sounding . . . in a word, just heavenly

    Moving on to some pop music. I confess I am a little too old now for ‘pop’ but . . . Listening to Ellie Goulding – Halcyon was interesting because although its clear the BASA handles loud compressed music very well you can hear some of the more negative attributes that happens to music that has had its audio butchered in terms of hot compression!

    What is amazing though is still how much extra detail is presented – Ellie’s voice has been doubled and you can clearly hear and differentiate her other ‘ghosted’ voice, a detail normally completely lost!

    Listening to FKA twigs – ‘Two weeks’ and ‘Video girl’ is pretty mind blowing hearing well recorded electronic music done well. The electronic low end here is huge and encompassing. The textures and 3D presentation of the soundstage is so addictive here. You feel completely enveloped IN the music

    Moving to more atmospheric OST’s – Hanz Zimmer’s ‘Interstellar’ is a profound experience! The opening track ‘Dreaming of the crash’ begins with sounds of a windy, dusty outside which puts me right back into the film, bizarrely I would say in a much immersive way than actually watching the film !! – Then having the sub-bass organ sounds coming in near the end…is just goosbump territory

    Moving to Rock. I mentioned above I felt some areas of the low end were slightly lacking but listening to Jimi Hendrix – ‘Band of Gypsies’ (an album I have listened to many many times) it strikes me it may be unfair to [personally] wish for more low end in that it would take away from a remarkably cohesive and balanced presentation of the whole. A presentation which me frankly astounds me every time I listen to the BASA. The drums of Buddy Miles are maybe only 1-2 db’s less in terms of volume that would make them perfect but again Im conscious that is more personal preference than, by any means, a fault of the BASA

    A quick mention should be made here of the track ‘On the run’ from ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd. In terms of how well the of the clarity of how ell the BASA reveals details - every detail of the announcers voice and what she says is clear as a bell. I daren’t say much more about listening to Dark Side of the Moon through the BASA as that could take up many pages, Suffice it to say, listening to DSotM through the BASA is like previously hearing the record and then seeing them live! Lets’ just leave it at that analogy

    I think I had better stop here. I hope I have managed to express adequately how darn great the Burson Swing Amp is in terms of the actual musical qualities it offers. I am not an expert but I can say with 100% confidence this is a VERY good amp. Actually no, this is a truly great amp. I have heard things in music I have never heard and in ways I haven’t experienced before.

    It should be noted that the review here is ‘only’ based on the entry level model. Opamp rolling can and indeed does change and build on the great sound already presented here. It frightens me a bit to think that the quality here can be increased from what it already has!
    Having previously upgraded the opamp in my LittleDot Tube amp to a Burson V I can certainly attest to how a simple change in your amp can give a huge upgrade in quality and enjoyment!

    I would also like to add that in all honesty I don't have a huge amount of experience with how power supplies can make a difference to an amps quality although from what I have researched on this topic it seems clear that a clean, powerful, well designed power supply can create a significant upgrade to the sound quality.
    I can say that with my time with the BASA I experienced a dark almost silent background that revealed details in exceptionaly clear way

    Huge thanks to Burson for the opportunity to spend some time with this amp. I very much hope that this amp gets the credit it deserves.
  5. Wiljen
    Burson Swing, It don't mean a thing if...
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Feb 4, 2019
    Pros - Great build quality, great sound, exposes filters and chip level options of 9038, very flexible.
    Cons - display somewhat small for aging eyes, looks more industrial than high end.

    I’ve reviewed quite a few Burson Audio products and can honestly say I haven’t used one yet that I didn’t think was an excellent value. Sure, Burson has had a few hiccups but they have historically had excellent customer service and have been fast to send replacement parts when a problem is discovered. I currently own the Play, Bang, and Fun along with sets of both v6 vivid and v6 classic Op-amps and a couple v5i in a couple of my portable devices. I’m a fan, I’ll admit that up front, but I am not willing to give anyone a free pass, fan or not. So when Carlos emailed me and asked if I was interested in the Swing, Burson’s DAC/Pre-amp designed to mate with the Bang and Fun, i was quick to say yes.

    One interesting fact about the whole line that started with the Play, is the ability to run them from a PC power supply and to fit them into a 5.25 inch drive bay. For an all-in-one unit like the Play, this makes a lot of sense. For other devices in the line, maybe not so much. For example, the Bang is never likely to be mounted inside a PC case as you’d have to run speaker wires in to the back of the Bang through the pc case for this arrangement to work. The Fun is sort of the middle ground as it can be used internal to a PC case for those that already have a high end sound card, but does require some re-routing of the output of the soundcard to the input on the Fun.

    I have been using the Fun on my desk quite regularly as it does a great job of powering the big Hifiman planars. At times I have used the Play to feed it, but most of the time I have preferred to feed it using either the Khadas Toneboard (an insanely good DAC for $99 if a bit lacking in case, controls, etc). I also have been using the Bang to power a set of bedroom speakers fed from an iFi iOne DAC. The introduction of the Swing gives me a couple new options. I can use it as a DAC and feed the Fun with it, or use it as a DAC/Pre-amp and feed the bang with it. I’ll look at some of both in this review.


    Burson ships all of these siblings in a black press-board box with the details of what is inside on the top. Inside the box the main unit is protected by closed cell foam in the center of the box with a small accessory box on either side containing connectors, power supplies, and an Allen wrench for opening the case should you want to change op-amps. While not the heartiest box on the market, it does a good job of protecting the device for shipment and should last well unless used repeatedly.



    The Swing ships with a set of RCA cables, a USB cable, a motherboard connection cable, an RCA to RCA adapter for use inside a PC Case, an Allen wrench for opening the case, and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter. (not real sure why on the adaptor as it does not have a 6.35mm port, but it may just be part of the standard kit for all desktop models. Both of the cables are good quality and are markedly bettter than the average big-box store USB or RCA cable. RCA cables are roughly two (2) feet s in length while the USB cable is five feet long. The USB cable is a type-A to type-B (2.0) style so if you wish to use the USB-c connector on the front of the unit, you will need to provide your own cable.



    All these siblings share very similar black anodized aluminum cases which fit in a 5 ¼ drive bay in a PC if desired. All have a Molex connector for powering from a PC power supply in addition to a connector for an external power supply (provided with the unit). The case is held together with 4 screws that connect each faceplate to the top and bottom shell. Shells have a groove and ridge arrangement along the edges that insure proper orientation and prevent slippage.


    Each sibling has different face-plates depending on the controls and jacks present. The Swing has a digital display, a USB-C port, a volume control, and a function button (left to right).


    The rear face from left to right has Coax and Optical Inputs, 12V Barrel connector, USB input, 12V Molex PC peripheral connector, Power Switch, Pre-amp output RCAs (volume controlled), 3.5mm microphone input, and DAC output RCAs (set volume level) at the far right.

    The upper half of the case can be removed by removing the two upper screws on both the front and rear faceplates. I found that loosening the lower screws about ½ turn aided in lifting the top without scratching the inside of the face plates in the process.

    The inside of the lid has a diagram that details the components and positions of each. This is particularly useful when changing op-amps. This is certainly a nice touch as manuals are often nowhere to be found when one sets out to change op-amps etc….



    Burson has spent a lot of time refining the Max Current Power Supply that is now shared by all the members of the desktop family. It might seem like a waste of time as AC to DC conversion is now literally 100+ year old process and pretty well documented. On the contrary, few of those age old designs were worried about audio quality or the noise levels produced by the conversion process. (Yes they worried about noise some, but a fan doesn’t require nearly the cleanup that a good audio circuit does). Burson started out by looking at the shortcomings of existing converters and then desived ways to eliminate them. First was move the AC/DC conversion outside the device. An external unit feeds the Swing 12v DC so no conversion hardware is needed inside the unit.


    A second DC to DC conversion is done inside the unit to further clean up the input power. This conversion is done at 170kHz instead of the 30-50kHz of more common switch mode power supplies so any noise produced is well above the range of human hearing. The standard 30-50kHz switch mode supplies do indeed operate in a range that can create audible noise. The other issue Burson wanted to address was the impedance typically seen in power conversion processes. With transformers often running 10-15Ω impedance and demand varying depending on what is playing, there are times when a transformer is the limiting factor and can have less current available than demanded. Burson’s answer was to eliminate the transformer entirely and create a new topology that allowed for much higher current draw.

    I’ve been interested in the development of the MCPS since getting ahold of the Play and especially the Bang. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure about the Play although it did seem to deliver a lot for the price tag, but when I got the Bang, I was wowed. How that little box could pump out enough power to run the big Magnepans was just beyond me. The Swing uses that same MCPS technology (6 distinct converters) to drive the system.


    Moving on from the power side of things, Input is either by Coax, optical or USB (usb on rear and usb-c on front). Input selection is handled by the front panel and only a single input is active at any given time. (Front and rear USB inputs are distinct and must be selected as well). USB duties are handled by Xmos with support up to 32bit/768khz PCM and DSD512 although drivers may limit this. Some have found that Thesycon reference drivers provide higher levels of function than the current Burson provided driver. I found that Swing was recognized by the software I already had loaded for my Khadas Toneboard. Xmos has always been a bit fussy in this regard so some driver revisions may work better for some users than others. This remains a place where some additional work on Windows would be welcomed.

    The DAC itself if the ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M. This is the 2 channel mobile version of the ESS9038 series. I bring this up as other versions of the 9038 exist so if you are comparing DACs, be sure you are comparing the correct version. The Flagship 9038pro are 8 channel chips while the mobile are 2 channel and the K2M version adds an integrated output stage for 2vrms output. Another thing we sometimes see is the summation of channels to create a cleaner output (Apogee Groove – 8 channel Chip with 4 channels used per output) or multiple chips used in Mono mode (Topping Dx7) in order to improve performance. I say this as comparing two devices that say 9038 is a bit like comparing two cars that both say Mercedes. All are pretty good, but some are definitely better than others and cost usually helps tell you which is which.


    Once converted to analog, the signal has 2 options. The first is a straight line level output and the second is a volume controlled pre-amp output. The fixed level line out is perfect for pairing the Swing to the Fun where the amplifier already has a volume control and expects a fixed level input. On the flip side, the Pre-amp out works well with powered speakers or the Bang which lacks the ability to control volume. When setting up the Swing, one has to select which output type they want to use and only one is active at any given moment.



    Settings are managed from the front panel. To do so, first press the button the right of the volume knob. This will change the screen to settings.

    You can move up and down through the settings using the volume knob. The first 4 visible when you press the control button are Input, Output, Pre-amp Gain, and FIR-filter. For additional settings are available if you use the volume knob to roll down to them. Those settings are DPLL(DSD), DPLL(PCM), De-emphasis, and hardware Reset. To change a setting, scroll to it using the volume button so the arrow at the left is on the desired setting then press in on the volume knob. This will switch the mode to settings mode. Turning the volume knob left or right will expose the different options. (The options do not loop so if you don’t see the option you want, turn the knob in the opposite direction). Once you find the value you want, press the volume knob again to change the setting. Once finished changing settings, click the control button to return to the main screen.



    Setup on the Swing went quickly and I paired it with the Fun to start with as it seemed an obvious choice and if the Swing doesn’t play well with Burson’s own products, what is the likelihood it does better with a competitors? I used Sennheiser HD700 and Hifiman He560v2 headphones to do my listening as I am intimately familiar with them and know how to separate out what they contribute and what the DAC and amp bring to the mix. The first thing I noticed was a very lively and dynamic performance with good sense of space in all dimensions. The He560 is particularly source dependent so to get a good sized stage from it was a good sign. The next thing I noticed was the detail level. The Swing is competitive with several DACs well above its price range in micro-detail retrieval. I went through my entire review tracks catalog with each set of headphones just to make sure I gave the Swing a fair evaluation and found it to be slightly more forgiving of poor material than I had expected considering the detail retrieval at the top end. Once completed, as I wrote my notes the main thought that struck me was that I had not been able to immediately determine that this was an ESS dac chip as is often the case. While the ESS series is renowned for its technical prowess and accuracy, it sometimes gets dinged for being less than musical and a bit sterile or clinical. The Swing does a good job of balancing the technical prowess with just a hint of warmth and an ever so slight push of the upper mids that remove the sterility without introducing a lot of coloration. The Swing also did a good job of sounding natural and real. I firmly believe that no recording will ever rival seeing the artist live and I urge everyone to patronize live performances every chance they get. When I listen to recorded music, I listen for how close to the real thing it is. The Swing does a good job of this as Van Morrison, Springsteen, and Vintage trouble live performances all evoked memories of the shows.

    Next up, time to try the volume controlled pre-amp side. But how to do so. I decided on two ways.

    1.) I paired the Swing with the Bang and a set of KEF Q350 monitors to see how it would behave as a true pre-amp.

    2.) I paired it to the Schiit Valhalla 2 that has basically been permanently paired with my 600Ω Beyer 990s.

    Paired with the Bang and the Venue’s, the Swing did a good job of handling volume control as well as feeding the Bang. I did notice a very mild channel imbalance when below about 5% of total volume. This disappeared above that level and is not at all uncommon, but does bear mentioning. The Q350s are not capable of the detail level of the HD700s but do have a great tone and can really fill a room when driven well. The Swing and Bang had no problem getting the most out of them and volume control was precise enough to have good control. I tested with my calibrated mic and was able to increase or decrease volume in roughly 1.25 dB increments. (Understand this was about as unscientific a test as possible. I ran pink noise with the mic 5 inches in front of the Q350 and adjusted the volume pot while watching the output level in REW).

    The Swing also paired well with the Valhalla 2 and provided a good balance between the sometimes fluid sound of tubes with that bit of extra detail and a slight clinical leaning of the Swing. I sometimes find a warm leaning amp and DAC combined with the 990s to be a bit too dark for my liking. The Swing kept the balance more centered and kept that warmth at a pleasurable level rather than becoming overbearing.


    I’ve been impressed with Burson a time or two before, but always for their prowess in the Op-amp and Amplifier world. So here we have a product with none of that. The Op-amps in my review sample are stock NE5532 and 5534s so no fancy V6vivids. The Swing offers only a pre-amp section and even it is not on display full time. So for the swing to succeed, Burson had to prove their prowess in the DAC world. They started out smart by selecting a lot of premier components. They progressed by improving their existing design from the Play (new boost converters, smaller power regulators to reduce noise, and an overall redesign of the board to move noise inducing components as far from the audio chain as possible). What they managed to create is a DAC worthy of being paired with the Fun or Bang and one that ought to be given serious consideration if you are in market for a new DAC. It easily holds its own against my bifrost MB and Audio-GD R2R-2 as well as a couple of friends Audio-GD D77 and NAD M-51. It offers the user performance on a level that exceeds its price and exposes many of the 9038s filters and options to customize your sound. If there is fault to be found, it looks more industrial than high-end with its matte black shell, and the display could be a bit larger for aging eyes like mine. Overall these are nitpicks as the sonic qualities more than overcome any faults I found.