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  • Opamp rolling with the Burson Bang

    Overview

    As a follow-up to my review of the Burson Bang, here is a comparison of various discrete opamps to replace the stock IC opamp with. The Burson Bang houses one dual opamp in a DIP8 socket.

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual NJR 5532D).jpg

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual).jpg 01a Side (cropped, 1x dual).jpg 01c Bottom (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    From top to bottom:
    The review Bang came with the stock NJR 5532D opamp. Later, Burson provided one V6 Classic Dual for this review. The other discrete opamps I purchased myself.

    The discrete opamps came with sockets to protect the pins during transport.

    02 Sockets (cropped).jpg

    From left to right: SparkoS Labs, Sonic Imagery Labs, Burson.

    Burson Bang without opamp:

    03b Burson Bang (cropped).jpg


    Test Setup

    I mostly used FLAC files purchased on HDTracks.com, and Spotify Premium. FLAC files were played with foobar2000 via the WASAPI (event) output.

    Hardware: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 > iFi iDefender > 6 ft AmazonBasics USB A-to-B cable > Schiit Yggdrasil (USB gen 5, Analog 2) > 3 ft Kabeldirekt stereo RCA cable > Burson Fun with SparkoS SS3601s > 3 ft Kabeldirekt stereo RCA cable > Burson Bang > ELAC BS 403 (4 ohms)


    NJR 5532D

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual NJR 5532D).jpg

    02b Burson Bang (cropped).jpg

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Good imaging, but a bit thin and harsh

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Fair amount of bass, percussions thin, good imaging, thin sounding

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    Soft, slow bass, harsh vocals

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy [-6 dB]
    Harsh vocals, muddy bass

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-9 dB]
    Tinny, thin, bright, brittle cymbals, incoherent bass. Dreadful.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go [-6 dB]
    Thin, boring.

    Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Var. 1
    Glare in piano, not very convincing

    Nicki Minaj - LLC
    Mushy, soft bass attack, tinny. Not fun.


    Burson V6 Classic Dual

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01a Side (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01c Bottom (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 1 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 2 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 3 (cropped).jpg


    Compared to NJR NE5532D:

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Good imaging, more pleasant vocals, still a bit thin. Much less harsh.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Percussions much more convincing, much less thin

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    Quite listenable

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy [-6 dB]
    Engaging, still a bit harsh and thin

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go [-6 dB]
    Upper bass fuller, more compelling transients

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-9 dB]
    Pretty listenable, but still a bit mushed together.

    Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Var. 1
    Sounds quite good!

    Nicki Minaj - LLC
    Much better, actually enjoyable.


    Burson V6 Vivid Dual

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01a Side (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01c Bottom (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 1 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 2 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 3 (cropped).jpg


    Compared to V6 Classic:

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Better imaging, more lively. Some harshness left in vocals.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Better imaging, clearer, more definition in bass. Good stuff.

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    Convincing sound stage, engaging, voice slightly sibilant

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy [-6 dB]
    Pretty smooth, definitely groovy.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go [-6 dB]
    Convincing sound stage, sounds quite good, if still slightly thin

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-9 dB]
    Cymbals have more texture, sounds quite good

    Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Var. 1
    Really nice. Want to keep listening. Better attack. Piano slightly harsh.

    Nicki Minaj - LLC
    Definitely fun. Bass attack could still be better.


    Sonic Imagery Labs 994Enh-Ticha

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01a Side (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01c Bottom (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 1 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 4 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 7 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 5 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 6 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 3 (cropped).jpg


    Compared to V6 Vivid:

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Fuller and richer, some harshness left in vocals.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Also full and rich, but a bit grainy

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    Same as above. Vivid is easier to listen to.

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy [-6 dB]
    Fun and engaging. Slightly harsh.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go [-6 dB]
    Quite visceral. Sharp transients. Not bad at all.

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-9 dB]
    Very good, but vocals are shrill

    Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Var. 1
    Better attack than Vivids. Good imaging. Want to keep listening.

    Nicki Minaj - LLC
    Sounds sharp and controlled


    SparkoS Labs SS3602

    01b Top (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01a Side (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    01c Bottom (cropped, 1x dual).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 2 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 4 (cropped).jpg

    02b Burson Bang 1 (cropped).jpg


    Compared to 994Enh-Ticha:

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    More resolving, seems brighter. Less harsh.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Engaging, well defined. Less harsh.

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    See above.

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy [-6 dB]
    Sounds good, but a bit too bright.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go [-6 dB]
    Sharp transients, full sound, etc. Just a bit too bright.

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-9 dB]
    Very clean sound, but a bit shrill.

    Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Soul of Things, Var. 1
    Refined sound.

    Nicki Minaj - LLC
    Clean and controlled, but treble too hot.


    Preamp swap: Schiit Saga in passive mode instead of Burson Fun with SS3601s

    Sonic Imagery Labs 994Enh-Ticha

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Sounds soft and thin, a bit on the bright side, okay imaging.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    The little Bang is straining to deliver the bass and sounds a little out of breath. More boring than engaging.

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    Boomy bass, tinny mids, bright highs. Not too harsh, though. More boring than engaging. Sound stage is flat.

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy
    Boomy bass, tinny mids, okay highs with some harshness. Sound stage doesn't sound right, like I'm behind the stage, the band facing away from me.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go
    Too bright. Transients not half bad, but imaging not precise enough. I'm bored. Clapping sounds weird.

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-3 dB]
    Harsh and mushy. Don't want to keep listening.

    Billie Eilish - Bury a Friend
    Pretty good, actually. Plenty of bass, clear vocals. Breaking glass sound was not convincing. Mildly engaging.


    SparkoS Labs SS3602

    Despite disconnecting the power supply while switching opamps, the Bang produced a loud pop when I turned it on. To avoid damaging my speakers, I stopped testing after this.

    Compared to 994Enh-Ticha:

    Amber Rubarth - Novocaine
    Much better. Imaging a bit better, mids not too tinny, dynamics better and a lot more engaging.

    Alexis Cole - Whippoorwill
    Quite nice. Better imaging, refined sound, much better controlled bass, very engaging. Sound no longer flat. Also not too bright - a better pairing than Fun/SS3601s as the preamp. Happy to keep listening.

    Cécile McLorin Salvant - If A Girl Isn’t Pretty
    See above. Quite nice. Clapping sounds convincing.

    Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys - Smooth & Groovy
    Nice sound stage, very engaging. Bass hits a bit too hard, but is still controlled and well defined.

    Nils Lofgren - Keith Don't Go
    Good stuff. Clean, clear, fast. Tighter imaging. Warm mids. Good sound stage.

    Deftones - Rocket Skates [-3 dB]
    Vocals too harsh. Everything else better than before, but chorus too much to bear.

    Billie Eilish - Bury a Friend
    Sounds good, greater sense of ease, more airy, breaking glass sound much better defined. More engaging than before.


    Conclusion

    The discrete opamps are simply better than the stock IC opamp. Between the V6 Classic and Vivid, I clearly preferred the Vivid.

    Beyond that, things were less clear. With the Fun/SS3601 as the preamp, the V6 Vivid sounded a bit thin, the 992Enh-Ticha weirdly grainy and shrill, and the SS3602 too bright. At least the latter might be addressable with tone controls, or changing the preamp or the speakers.

    With Saga as the preamp, to my surprise I preferred its passive mode over the LISST "tube" that I normally use with the Schiit Vidar. However, the results with the 994Enh-Ticha were far less compelling than before. The SS3602 on the other hand worked very well with the Saga, finally resulting in a sound that I could be happy with.

    Using the Fun/SS3601 + Bang/SS3602 combination in my bedroom setup with small Yamaha satellite speakers did not turn out too bright, reaffirming that it's all a matter of synergy.

    Winner: SparkoS Labs SS3602
earfonia, SoundDouble and Slim1970 like this.

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