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Burson Swing

Rating:
4.66667/5,
  1. DarKu
    Burson Swing DAC review
    Written by DarKu
    Published May 23, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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?

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    Comparisons

    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…

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    Conclusions

    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

    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
    ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

    • 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
    [​IMG]
  2. jon parker
    Burson Audio Swing Amp
    Written by jon parker
    Published Apr 21, 2019
    5.0/5,
    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?

    Burson-Swing-S1.jpg

    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.

    image.png

    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.

    https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/swing/

    [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

    https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/burson-swing.23566/

    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!

    ‘Dreams’

    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.

    NB:
    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.
  3. Wiljen
    Burson Swing, It don't mean a thing if...
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Feb 4, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.



    Packaging:

    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.

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    Accessories:

    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.

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    Build:

    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.

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    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).


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    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….

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    Internals:


    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.

    Burson_Swing_front_close.JPG


    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.

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    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.

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    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:

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    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.

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    Sound:

    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.

    Conclusions:

    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.